With the Olympics just a little over a year away, the Vancouver Police Department unveils today (January 21) its draft business plan for 2009, which would see additional cops, more street spot checks, and more bylaw-violation tickets issued in the Downtown Eastside.
The plan will be presented at a meeting of the Vancouver police board chaired by Mayor Gregor Robertson.
It states that “in 2009 the VPD will introduce a new strategy aimed at reducing street disorder by increasing the number of members in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) on the Beat Enforcement Teams (BET), and increasing the time these members spend curbing and deterring disorder on the street in this area”.
The plan goes on: “This strategy will be accomplished in part by a directive for increased discretion with regards to arresting and charging individuals for simple drug possession in this area.
“By placing the priority on seizing drugs rather than officially prosecuting the offenders for lower-level drug possession offences, VPD members will avoid the necessity of spending the majority of their shift filling out lengthy paperwork which effectively removes their presence on the street for several hours at a time.
“With more officers being dedicated to the area, and more of their shift spent enforcing the law on the street, the disorder and offending associated with this area will decrease, increasing the quality of life and safety for all residents and visitors in the area.”
One of the plan’s strategies involves the increased use of city bylaws “for disorder offences”.
There will also be an “increased involvement in service of summons for chronic disorder related bylaw offenders; and increased usage of the Safe Streets and Trespass Acts”.
The plan’s targets include a “minimum of 4 street checks per BET member per block”.
The VPD also wants to eradicate “street vending in the BET catchment area by the end of 2009”.
In a phone interview, VPD spokesperson Constable Tim Fanning said that potential criticisms of the plan from Downtown Eastside activists are “nothing new”.
“One of the goals of the department for years has been to work on street disorder because people down there want to feel safe,” Fanning told the Straight.
“There’s a lot of people that live in the Downtown Eastside that aren’t addicted to crack that aren’t on the streets all the time. Those are the people that appreciate a police presence,” he said.
“We get more support from the community than criticisms because...a lot of people that we talk to that live down there, residents as well as businesses, people do not feel safe when there’s a large amount of street disorder going on,” Fanning added.