DTES Groups Continue Opposition to Police Street Sweeps


PRESS CONFERENCE: Sun Feb 15th at 11 am. Pigeon Park (Carrall & Hastings)

With Speakers:
- Downtown Eastside Women Centre Power to Women Group
- David Eby, Lawyer with BC Civil Liberties
- Carnegie Community Action Project
- Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
- Douglas King, Lawyer with PIVOT Legal Society

February 13th, 2008, Vancouver- Downtown Eastside groups are continuing
to speak out and voice their opposition to the ongoing “street sweeps”
that have been occurring in the DTES. The nature of these sweeps ranges
from increased and aggressive ticketing for things like jaywalking to
complete gentrification of Pigeon Park. The City’s Engineering Department
has been confiscating the belongings of homeless people in to a large
steel shipping container.

As verified by the VPD itself, a year-end performance report shows that
officers issued 467 tickets for violations of the Safe Streets Act in
2008, compared to 202 tickets in 2007. Police officers also handed out 133
tickets for violations of the Trespass Act, up from 95 in 2007. Tickets
for city-bylaw infractions, including tickets for vending, panhandling,
and loitering, shot up to 439 tickets in 2008 compared to 247 tickets in

The VPD’s draft business plan for 2009 will further increase ticketing by
at least 20% as well as increase the number of officers on Beat
Enforcement Teams. The plan also includes a target of “a minimum of 4
street checks per BET member per block.”

In a letter to the Mayor and VPD Police Chief, representatives from the
BCCLA, B.C. Positive Women’s Network, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network,
AIDS Vancouver, Youthco Aids Society, Asian Society for the Intervention
of AIDS, and B.C. Persons With AIDS Society stated that the VPD’s plan
will limit access of the people in the area to critical health services
and will increase the risk of transmission of HIV and hepatitis.

According to Priscillia Mays, a member of the Power of Women Group at the
Downtown Eastside Women’s Center “It is not a coincidence that all this is
happening in the lead up to the Olympic Games. In fact it is happening to
ensure that residents live in a state of fear and intimidation so that the
DTES is ‘cleansed’ of poor and homeless people in time for the tourists."

“It is also likely that poor people who are unable to pay these hefty
tickets will be jailed leading up to 2010 because the VPD Draft Business
Plan indicates increased involvement in ensuring that court summons are
served to those ‘chronic offenders’ of such ridiculous bylaws” continues

- 30 –

Poverty groups claim Downtown Eastside crackdown unfair

Police bid to reduce civil disorder on streets under fire

By Cheryl Chan, The Province February 15, 2009

Downtown Eastside groups say increased police “street sweeps” in the neighbourhood is part of a devious plan to sweep the area’s marginalized residents under the rug during the Olympic Games. Increased ticketing for offences such as jaywalking, loitering, panhandling and street vending is part of the Vancouver Police Department’s 2009 business plan, which has set a target of issuing 20-per cent-more tickets for municipal bylaw infractions and requires Downtown Eastside beat officers to conduct at least four streets checks per block in an effort to curb street disorder.

It also aims to eliminate street vending in the area by year’s end.

But advocates say the plan unfairly targets impoverished residents who can’t afford to pay tickets and will end up either in jail or banned from the neighbourhood because unpaid tickets could lead to court summons, no-go orders or warrants.

“It is the unofficial registration system of the police for the poor leading up to the Olympic Games,” activist Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project told a news conference at Pigeon Park Sunday.

“If the city and police cared about the safety of the people in this neighbourhood, there’s so many more creative and meaningful ways they can deal with safety issues rather than giving people a ticket,” she said.

“It’s obviously devious.”

David Eby, acting director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that once a person is summoned to court, they will likely receive a no-go order barring them from the neighbourhood.

People will then be “detained, imprisoned or displaced if they receive the no-go orders that they ultimately breach or they obey . . . and stay out of the neighborhood, which ultimately is what I believe is the goal of this operation,” he said.

The crackdown also endangers people’s health since the subsequent no-go orders will limit their access to Downtown Eastside health services such as needle exchanges, the safe-injection site, and low-barrier clinics, Eby said.

Eby added that previous research on Operation Torpedo, a similar police initiative in 2003, showed the crackdown increased the risk of transmission of HIV and hepatitis because addicts were more likely to rush injections in back lanes and use unsafe injecting practices. Vancouver police officials were not available for comment Sunday. Police have already stepped up ticketing in the streets in 2008. According to a year-end VPD report, ticket violations of the provincial Safe Streets Act more than doubled from 202 tickets in 2007 to 467 tickets in 2008. In the Downtown Eastside, police issued 439 tickets in 2008 for city bylaw infractions, compared to 247 the previous year.
© Copyright (c) The Province

Downtown Eastside residents worry they’ll be jailed for Olympic Games
By Mary Frances Hill, Vancouver Sun February 15, 2009

VANCOUVER — William Dawson owes more than $200 for crossing the street, a debt he’s vowing to fight.

The 48-year-old East Hastings resident is a schizophrenic who lives on disability pay. He said Sunday he can’t afford to pay two jaywalking tickets he was issued in December and January, and he feels the police targeted him as a resident of the Downtown Eastside.

His predicament is a common one for residents of the neighbourhood, according to advocates for the Downtown Eastside’s poor.

A group including the Pivot Legal Society, the Carnegie Community Action Project and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, brought home the point as they gathered at Pigeon Park on East Hastings on Sunday.

Pivot Legal Society lawyer Douglas King said the ticketing sweeps were instituted under Project Civil City, an initiative of the previous city council, and B.C.’s Safe Streets Act, both of which recommend increased enforcement of bylaws dealing with civil disorder, such as spitting, jaywalking and vending items on sidewalks.

“Neighbourhood residents are afraid this is a way to get as many warrants against people as possible, and put them in jail for the Olympics,” said King.
Dawson said that with the help of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and Pivot Legal Society, he’ll take his tickets to court, and fight them, rather than risk jail time.

“I should have gone on the crosswalk, but this is my front yard,” he said Sunday, adding that one of his friends served a five-day jail sentence after not paying a jaywalking ticket.

City councillor Geoff Meggs said increased bylaw enforcement is part of a draft business plan by the Vancouver police department, and reflects the province’s Safe Streets Act policies.

He said Mayor Gregor Robertson will be discussing the issue with the Vancouver police board.

“[Downtown Eastside residents] aren’t wrong to worry about the Olympics because past Olympic Games have been marred by police activity that’s focused on some communities in a way that was disruptive and even discriminatory, and that’s nobody’s intention here,” he said.

“The neighbourhood focus is something we need to take a look at.”
Also on the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators marched through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Saturday afternoon for the 18th annual Women’s Memorial March to honour missing and murdered women.

The march began at the Carnegie Centre after speeches from native leaders and family members and friends of the victims, many of whom worked in the sex trade.

Protesters demanded a public inquiry into the murdered and missing women from aboriginal communities, the Downtown Eastside [and] the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia.

With files from Graeme Wood