July 16, 2015 3:02 pm
Updated: July 16, 2015 11:57 pm

Undercover Vancouver Police officer finds compassion among DTES residents


WATCH: An undercover cop posing as a disabled man in a wheelchair got surprising results when he hit Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Linda Aylesworth explains.

Between January 2014 and June 2015, 28 incidents were reported to the Vancouver Police where a person in a wheelchair was violently attacked. More than half of the crimes occurred in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and included 21 assaults, six robberies and one sexual assault.

A 30-year veteran VPD officer, Staff Sergeant Mark Horsley, decided to go undercover as a wheelchair-dependent resident of the DTES to try and find those who were victimizing people in wheelchairs.

The GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre loaned the VPD a wheelchair and, for five days, police set out into the community to help protect those who are more vulnerable.

WATCH: See more of Staff Sergeant Mark Horsley undercover video

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Prepared to get robbed, beaten up and taken advantage of, Horsley said he was met with nothing but generosity and care from the residents of this tight-knit community.

“While the project didn’t result in the arrests that were expected, officers were reminded of the kindness in those who make the Downtown Eastside their home,” says Horsley.

He says the community accepted him right away.

In one situation, a young man zipped up Horsley’s money pouch to make sure he didn’t lose his cash. Horsley also told people he couldn’t count, and when he needed to buy something people would help him count change. Not one person short-changed him.

“The generosity and the caring was inspiring,” says Horsley.

He says he had the opportunity to experience the DTES in a different way and found the community has soul. “For the very rare and despicable person, willing to victimize vulnerable people, you should know, the police are watching,” says Horsley.

“But more importantly, the people of the DTES are watching.”

WATCH: Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley shares his heartwarming experience in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with Global News


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