“The high police presence in our neighbourhood has resulted in an unfair and disproportionate targeting of people living here,” says VANDU Community Organizer/ Volunteer Coordinator Aiyanas Ormond. “By criminalizing people for non-criminal behaviour like jaywalking, vending and panhandling, the VPD is actually harming our community, causing increased stress, economic hardship and incarceration for people who are already among the poorest and most marginalized in the city.”
“Jaywalking is common behaviour across the city,” continues Ormond. “Only in the DTES is this behaviour disproportionately and discriminatorily criminalized. The VPD is covering up this unfair practice by claiming that their ticketing of the DTES residents is intended to promote pedestrian safety. But the VPD provide no evidence that bylaw enforcement either discourages jaywalking or increases pedestrian safety – because there is none. Quite the opposite, by the VPD’s own account, DTES pedestrian strikes have decreased during a period when VPD ticketing for jaywalking also decreased.”
“We do have a very good guide for improving pedestrian safety in the CoV funded VANDU Pedestrian Safety Report. The implementation of some of these recommendations – inadequate and piecemeal – has had a positive impact on pedestrian safety in our community. Enforcement of jaywalking bylaws is not one of the recommendations because there is no evidence that it improves pedestrian safety! The measure that has had the biggest impact, the 30km zone on Hastings, was explicitly opposed by the Vancouver Police Department. So the VPD’s supposed concern for the safety of our community members is really a smokescreen to justify existing, discriminatory practice.”
Dave Hamm is a Downtown Eastside resident, the President of the VANDU Board of Directors and a vendor who has received a number of tickets for selling used and recycled goods.
“Most people in our neighbourhood don’t have yards,” says Hamm. “We are very poor people, trying to survive in really difficult economic times and we are being criminalized for it. If this was really about stolen goods or drug dealing as the police claim, there are laws on the books to deal with those issues. For us it seems like they are just criminalizing poor people trying to survive.”
“VANDU will be attending the Police Board meeting to demand that the Board – and Mayor Robertson in particular – exercise meaningful civilian control over the VPD, stop this discriminatory and oppressive practice, and implement real community based solutions to the real problems in our neighbourhood. We are tired of being used as justification for steadily increasing police budgets and not getting the real economic, social and planning supports that our community really needs.”