Vancouver - Pivot and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) have obtained statistics that show startling discrepancies in the way the Vancouver Police Department is enforcing city bylaws. Statistics on the number of tickets issued for jaywalking and panhandling, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show that over the last four years 76% of jaywalking and 31% of panhandling tickets were given out in the DTES.
Earlier this year, Pivot and VANDU released statistics showing that 95% of street vending tickets were issued in the Downtown Eastside. The VPD responded to those numbers by saying that enforcement was targeted to areas where offences occur. However data suggests that jaywalking occurs relatively equally at intersections across the city, and across economic lines.
In 2009 a joint study by SFU and UBC found that there was an absence of pedestrian safety countermeasures in high collision areas, especially those located in the DTES. A city-funded study conducted in 2012 which examined those high collision areas found that jaywalking occurred equally across multiple neighbourhoods, and that the DTES intersections actually had a lower rate per capita than most intersections in other areas of the city. Pivot and VANDU are asking the VPD to explain the dramatic disparity in the issuing of bylaw tickets, given previous statements from City Council that bylaws should be enforced equally.
The VPD has stated that bylaw enforcement is part of a controversial program called "proactive policing", and community groups are concerned these tickets are a way of harassing poor people and obtaining their identification to look for warrants.
"We believe these statistics confirm our fears that city bylaws are not being enforced for reasons of public safety, but to circumvent the constitutional protections in this country against profiling and arbitrary detention" said Douglas King, Staff Lawyer at Pivot Legal Society. "The people of this neighbourhood have continually asked for greater pedestrian safety, not increased police enforcement. Giving out 2000 tickets to people who cannot pay fines in an effort to find the occasional outstanding warrant while ignoring enforcement entirely in richer neighbourhoods is simply unacceptable".
Residents have long said that the fines and court appearances which result from minor offences have created outstanding warrants and rising court costs, and Wally Oppal, head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, recently agreed in his final report. Addressing the relationship between Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood and the VPD he made the following recommendation:
"I recommend that the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department take proactive measures to reduce the number of court warrants issued for minor offences by:
Reducing the number of tickets issued and charges laid for minor offences;
Developing guidelines to facilitate greater and more consistent use of police discretion not to lay charges; and
Increasing the ways in which failures to appear can be quashed early in the judicial process"
VANDU members who have been given tickets for Bylaw offences will join Pivot tomorrow morning for a press conference to tell their stories.
What: Press Conference on VPD ticketing of jaywalking and panhandling in the DTES
When: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Where: Pivot Legal Society, 121 Heatley Avenue, Vancouver
Who: Douglas King (Pivot Legal Society), Aiyanas Ormond (VANDU), and VANDU members who have received tickets for bylaw offences.
The raw statistics obtained from the VPD can be seen here
Douglas King - Pivot Legal Society (778) 898-6349
Aiyanas Ormond - VANDU (604) 315-8766