Friday, March 20, 2009

The Vancouver Police Department’s new strategy for the Downtown Eastside

The Vancouver Police Department outlined a new change to the way it polices the Downtown Eastside in its board meeting on Wednesday. Under the changed strategy, the VPD will not arrest and charge drug users and expend resources on prosecuting. Rather, they will shift their focus to street disorder. However, the implication of this shift is that it increases the presence of the VPD in the neighbourhood. The business plan identifies a number of behaviours to be targeted by the VPD. These include aggressive panhandling, squeegeeing, open-air drug markets, unlicensed street vending and sleeping in city parks. The 20% increase in the number of public nuisance tickets the police have been handing out to the homeless and other residents in the neighbourhood was not a part of the new plan. However, it is troubling that considerable discretion remains for the police to hand out public nuisance tickets to individuals who have neither a roof over their head or money to pay the fines.

The shift in policy actually seems like a continuation from Project Civil Society, implemented under the former mayor. While David Eby, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, sees these changes as a positive step, he said he would like to see the VPD return items the police have seized from homeless people in recent years. Activists have said that the police strategy in the neighbourhood has been to target homeless people to clean the streets for the 2010 Winter Olympics, view

Posted by Mandy Cheema (Law III)

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