Vancouver police deny discriminatory ticketing of Downtown Eastside residents

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      A lawyer with Pivot Legal Society has accused the Vancouver Police Department of carrying out a campaign of “discrimination” against low-income residents in the Downtown Eastside.

      According to VPD statistics obtained by Pivot and provided to the Straight, 95 percent of street vending and street and traffic tickets issued in the city of Vancouver over the course of the last four years have gone to people in the neighbourhood.

      That number represents 1,448 of 1,529 ticketed infractions of those bylaws in the city. The downtown area ranked second, with just 28 such tickets, and the West End third, with 24.

      In a telephone interview, Pivot’s Douglas King argued that the pattern amounts to an attempt to “criminalize poor people behaviour”.

      “They are essentially giving tickets out to one type of person in a specific neighborhood that fits a different description,” he said. “To us, it is discrimination on the basis of social condition.”

      King argued that what the VPD is doing targets some of the city’s most-vulnerable residents.

      “It is against people who are on income assistance,” he said. “It is against drug users, it is against sex workers, and it is against anyone who kind of fits that stereotypical mold of a Downtown Eastsider.”

      According to Vancouver Police statistics, 95 percent of certain bylaw tickets issued in Vancouver have gone to people in the Downtown Eastside.
      Pivot Legal Society


      King noted that this is not the first time it has appeared the VPD is targeting low-income people living or working in the Downtown Eastside. He pointed to a spike in tickets issued in 2008 ahead of the Winter Olympics. King recalled that Pivot and community groups challenged the VPD on what was happening then, and secured the support of Vancouver city council on the matter.

      In March 2009, Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs was quoted in Megaphone Magazine stating that city hall had directed the VPD to stop targeting specific areas for disproportionate ticketing.

      “The mayor’s made it clear to the police board that these ticketing procedures cannot be used in one neighbourhood for a particular purpose,” Meggs said. “If they’re valid tools, they’ve got to be used everywhere and they should be used without discrimination.”

      King charged that the data provided by the VPD is proof police have consistently ignored that directive.

      VPD spokesperson Const. Brian Montague denied that any special attention is being directed at Downtown Eastside residents.

      “It is not discriminatory at all,” he said. “Tickets are given out where the offences occur, and the Downtown Eastside is where the majority of street vending happens. We don’t have a street vending problem in other areas of the city.”

      Montague pointed to similar concentrations of categories of tickets issued in other parts of the city. Liquor offences are highest in the entertainment district, he said. And a similar spike in tickets issued for speeding can be observed along Knight Street or Marine Drive.

      “Different policing doesn’t mean that it is discriminatory,” he maintained. “We simply hand out tickets where the offences occur.”

      Pivot and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) are scheduled to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (March 6). The event will take place at Pivot’s headquarters at 121 Heatley Avenue in Vancouver.

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      Mar 5, 2013 at 5:15pm

      I for one feel much safer knowing that cops are rummaging through junkies' backpacks. Surely that will stem the gushing tide of drugs sailing through our ports.


      Mar 5, 2013 at 8:10pm

      Keep up-ing the pressure on these druggie low-lifes. Make them want to leave town to go back to where they crawled out of.

      Save Vancouver

      Mar 5, 2013 at 10:40pm

      Is Pivot legal really that clueless, or do they fail to see that a large number of tickets are written in the DTES because that is where the laws are being broken? Being poor or drug addicted isn't a free pass to break the law.


      Mar 6, 2013 at 7:42am


      They scare you, don't they, the druggies, "low-lifes," under-privileged, disenfranchised, and probably just the poverty-stricken in general? Just don't forget that you need them, Gregg - you need to know that there's at least one societal strata below you, to look down upon them and call them names. You need them to make you feel better about yourself and to feel further away from the bottom.

      Because maybe in your darkest fears you see yourself in their position so you lash out at them in a sort of primitive fashion, snarling and acting tough and no-nonsense to mask your fear. But you need them because the very thought of them keeps you in line, lest you become one of them, Gregg.

      It's a common enough response; hatred born of fear.

      I live here

      Mar 6, 2013 at 8:10am

      I have lived in gastown for 11 years and one thing I can tell you for a fact. The people wondering the streets are breaking the law ALL THE TIME. Pissing in public, mindlessly j walking with no regard for safety of traffic, vandalizing, theft (go to london drugs and ask how many times a day they see shoplifters), drug use/selling etc etc etc

      Being that I have lived in the city for 25 years with 11 years in gastown I can say that locals break the law here 10xs more then anywhere else in the city, so hearing 90% of the tickets were from this areas seems reasonable to me. Treating everyone equal i.e. enforcing the laws equally would result in this. Income level has nothing to do with breaking the law. I grew up poor and guess what? My parents never broke the law.


      Mar 6, 2013 at 1:22pm

      If they're poor how do they pay fines. Clawback the welfare?

      Martin Dunphy

      Mar 6, 2013 at 1:32pm

      The VPD practice is an offshoot of the old "broken window" theory of so-called social-disorder cleanup that came to prominence because of an Atlantic magazine article in the 1980s and a subsequent book follow-up.
      New York City and some other large metropolitan areas in the U.S. gave it a try, with mixed results.
      One thing is for sure: the majority of people dashing illegally across the boulevard outside the Arbutus Club aren't issued jaywalking tickets. And the blue-rinse matrons holding sidewalk sales in Dunbar aren't harassed, searched, and ticketed.