Police ticketing on Vancouver streets shoots up

The Vancouver Police Department stepped up its ticketing of people on the streets last year.

A year-end performance report on the VPD’s 2008 business plan 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.

Both the Safe Streets Act and Trespass Act are provincial laws.

The figures are noted in a section of the report devoted to one of the VPD’s goals: “To improve liveability by reducing street disorder”.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the VPD pertains to the court’s lenient sentencing practices with regards to these offences,” the report states. “However, the VPD is working on having the courts deal with street disorder offences more severely.”

According to the report, “Street disorder statistics indicate that the overall reports of incidents have dropped from 31,164 to 30,542 city-wide.”

The impoverished Downtown Eastside seems to have borne the brunt of the furious ticketing by the police.

According to the VPD report, officers slapped people in the neighbourhood with some 439 city bylaw violation tickets for vending, panhandling, and loitering. In 2007, bylaw tickets handed out in the area totalled only 247.

Downtown Eastside residents are preparing to fight back before the courts, according to Doug King, policing campaigner for Pivot Legal Society.

King told the Straight that Pivot is working on a plan with groups like the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users to assist as many people as possible in contesting the tickets.

“It’s damaging to the neighbourhood,” King said about the police ticketing in the area. “People are just going to become angry and jaded.”

King said that such activity has fuelled fears that people with unpaid tickets will be rounded up later on, especially around the 2010 Olympics.

The VPD may do just that. Its 2009 business plan talks about identifying “chronic offenders” who “will be served summons by [VPD] members working the areas frequented by the offenders”.