Advocacy groups accuse VPD of unfairly targeting Downtown Eastside residents for jaywalking tickets

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      Pivot Legal Society has released new information suggesting that Downtown Eastside residents are unfairly targeted for jaywalking tickets and that there are “startling discrepancies in the way the Vancouver Police Department is enforcing city bylaws.”

      A June 6 media release issued by Pivot and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) presents statistics obtained from the VPD that show that 75.2 present of jaywalking tickets issued in the last four years were handed out in Downtown Eastside.

      That puts VPD practices in stark contrast with where jaywalking is happening, the advocacy groups suggest, noting a 2012 study funded by the City of Vancouver that found jaywalking occurs “equally across multiple neighbourhoods”.

      In a telephone interview, Pivot’s Douglas King told the Straight his biggest concern is that tickets for minor offences such as jaywalking are “creating an industry of enforcement that has nothing to do with criminal behavior and has everything to do with profiling people who are of a different social class.”

      King noted that in Canada, there exist constitutional protections against random street checks that prevent police from randomly searching people on the streets. “What we’re concerned bylaw enforcement has become is a way around that constitutional provision against street checks.”

      He continued: “We suspect that ultimately that is their goal, is to try to pick up as many people as they can on outstanding warrants, because they are trying to show, for their statistical purposes, that they are taking people of the street.”

      King said that at face value, arresting people with outstanding warrants is not a bad thing. But that upon closer inspection, how warrants are being pursued reveals a troubling phenomenon where people of lower incomes are treated unfairly.

      “If someone receives a ticket for a bylaw offense, they can’t pay it because they are in poverty and they can’t go to the court for a variety of reasons,” King explained. “So basically, it becomes a vicious cycle of warrants.”

      During a VPD press conference held the same morning, Sergeant Randy Fincham defended the force’s operations in the Downtown Eastside and dismissed claims of ticketing inconsistencies.

      “There is a larger police presence in Downtown Eastside,” he said. “With an increased police presence, what you will see is a larger potential for interaction with police and issue of jaywalking tickets.”

      “The police are not utilizing the issue of jaywalking tickets or any other tickets to identify individuals or to gather information on people,” Fincham emphasized.

      King said that their analyses of jaywalking tickets is more revealing than previous studies of how bylaws are enforced.

      “The last few times that we’ve had these discussions and talked about bylaw enforcement in Vancouver, the VPD’s response has been, ‘These are poverty-related crimes, they happen in poorer neighbourhoods, the Downtown Eastside is where the offences occur, so that is why the enforcement has been in the Downtown Eastside,’” he explained. “With jaywalking, it is harder for them to say that because jaywalking is something that occurs all over the city….Research suggests that it’s actually quite uniform across the city. So the big question is, why has enforcement been centered on one neighborhood?”



      This is stupid

      Jun 6, 2013 at 7:47pm

      Is not possible that perhaps more people brake the law on the DTES then in other areas like Kerrisdale. I mean lets call a spade a spade there is a REASON the speed limits got changed to 30k and is written on the street in massive letters. Its because j walking isa HUGE problem in that area. I have lived in gastown for 11 years and I can say without question that people aimless j waling (or braking the law in any capacity) is at least 20xs higher in gastown then any other area in there city, so it stands to reason there should be 20xs more tickets out of it. Leave income out of it. Your income status does not alleviate your from having to follow the law.


      Jun 6, 2013 at 9:13pm

      its because half the people walking around the dtes are fucked out of their minds and are wandering around oblivious to traffic or laws. someone cutting across a street with purposefulness to save time is slightly different from the waste-cases stumbling around in a retarded drug stupor.


      Jun 6, 2013 at 11:40pm

      But my first thought was what a waste of resources inasmuch as most poor people don't have the money to pay, so why bother using all that manpower, time and process to try to collect uncollectable tickets.

      Then it occurred to me...

      My understanding a few years back Libs changed the welfare process and I believe the monthly slip that receipents send into Social Services includes a box asking if you have any outstanding warrants and TICKETS.

      If you have a ticket/fine and you don't mention it, it can be grounds for ending your welfare.
      If you answer 'yes', then the Ministry will make arrangements to 'deduct' the welfare check and taking away from the already miserly sum on it.

      The cops must know this when they are issuing a jaywalking ticket (or bike helmet, the other big one in the DES)-- they are essentially knocking off 20,30,40 bucks a month off a persons' cheque and might cause them to be evicted.

      It makes one wonder exactly what someone desperate enough to prevent that might be willing to divulge to law enforcement to keep from being perpetually 'deducted' month after month after month without recourse.
      Not to mention the fact, the ticket will get paid by people who don't have the wherewithal to fight it and as such 'free' money back to the city without the administrative costs associated with ticketing wealthier citizens.

      Technically they could make fairly good coin handing out a ticket of some sort to virtually everyone in DES, since the recipient has no real control over the process.

      Just a thought....


      Jun 7, 2013 at 9:19am

      Dear Pivot... I think you are out of touch with the rest of the city on this one. We already have Zombie speed limits and extra Zombie cross walks in the neighbourhood... the fact that they continue to walk out into traffic leads to dangerous situations - according to CBC (good reporting), most of the pedestrians hit by cars in the city, get hit on the DTES. If jaywalking fines save a few people from getting hit (and manage to pick up a few people with outstanding warrants) it seems to me that this is a win win.

      Ivan Rooney

      Jun 7, 2013 at 10:13am

      It seems the VPD is a very poor role model, the number of police officers that I have observed jaywalking around there court domains is alarming. Ever try doing a citizens arrest in this situation and you will be taken down with the brutal force the VPD has become famous for.


      Jun 7, 2013 at 11:29am

      Oh my god! How much more ignorance do I have to stomach from the citizens of Vancouver? Bottom line is the poor and the drug addicted/mentally ill are under attack in the DTES from more than one side: the developers and the police as well as a good percentage of the people are hating on them and I'm sure wishing they would all just go away. Just so they can have their own neighbourhood. The rest of city is soo godamn expensive to live in and this is the last frontier for development. It's too bad there is no compassion from government, police or it seems anyone else in this city. Just don't forget that these people are "people" first, humans who are very sick for the most part and need help from the quarters that are persecuting them. More treatment, more resources, more help, more housing. Billions for redevelopment and building but not for the reclamation of the people who live here. Sad very sad.

      Alan Layton

      Jun 7, 2013 at 1:10pm

      There is so much conjecture going on here and nobody seems to have bothered to find out exactly who is being ticketed, if the VPD are even collecting on those tickets and indeed if Welfare is being deducted until they are paid off. I'm sure that the VPD's explanation is primarily nonsense, but I don't trust Pivot or activists either. Maybe someone will find out the answer to these questions and actually report them. One thing I do know is that I've heard and read comments by people who live in the DTES about being scared of the number of criminals that the place attracts. They feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood. If a by-product of the jaywalking checks is to get some of the criminals out of the area, then all the better. The neighbourhood will better off for it.


      Jun 7, 2013 at 2:04pm

      I would think then, by the VPD's statement, that they'd be covering the Granville bus strip where there's somebody - often casually- jaywalking about every second.


      Jun 7, 2013 at 4:14pm

      Sorry, I don't believe ANYTHING Vandu has to say since their only agenda seems to be perpetuating the myth that it's ok to be addicted.


      Jun 10, 2013 at 2:51pm

      Go on the VPD website and take a look at how many tickets they've issued in the city for cycling on the sidewalk. That's dangerous too, for pedestrians, especially in crowded areas like downtown where despite the bike lanes, there are always cyclists who choose to ride on the sidewalk, often quickly. Last year the VPD issued 12 tickets for this downtown. Obviously not a priority for the them. I wonder, is this part of the Mayor's plan to promote cycling? Or is the VPD just not interested in protecting the public in this respect?