September 16, 2013 10:24 pm
Updated: September 16, 2013 11:28 pm

Downtown Eastside advocate groups raise concerns over by-law enforcement in the neighbourhood

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Complaints are being leveled against Vancouver police for the number of tickets they’re handing out to jaywalkers in the Downtown Eastside.

Critics say 75 per cent of all jaywalking tickets are issued in the Downtown Eastside and it has little to do with pedestrian safety.

For years, advocates of those living on the Downtown Eastside have claimed the area is unfairly targeted for jaywalking and other minor offences.

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“It feels like we are taking a step back in time,” says Doug King with Pivot Legal Society. “We have had plenty of discussion with the police, and the police have been saying — we recognize the enforcement is not necessarily working and not changing behavior. We were hoping this report would be the next step in this conversation and talking about bigger implications, but unfortunately it is just more of the same.”

The Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users have now filed an official complaint with the Vancouver police department.

In that complaint, they allege discriminatory enforcement of bylaw offences by police officers on the Downtown Eastside.

“We are calling the police out,” says Aiyanas Ormond with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. “They don’t have any evidence that handing out jaywalking tickets either decreases jaywalking or increases pedestrian safety.”

In an emailed response to Global News, VPD says, “The more officers there are in a given area, the more officers there are to take notes of and enforce the law. There are more police officers per capita in the DTES than any other neighbourhood in the city.”

While street vending and jaywalking are not criminal offences, police officers can use discretion when issuing tickets. But that discretion is also being called into question.

“When you are saying that for the entire three or four-year period, there is only been one or two tickets given out for jaywalking in Kerrisdale, that to me shows that not only there is enforcement on the Downtown Eastside, but that you are completely ignoring enforcement in other parts of the city,” says King.

A report that’s going to the police board has two recommendations – to dismiss the complaint made by the groups, and to make public the anonymous data on by-law infractions.

If the dismissal goes ahead, the groups say they will take their cause to the Police Complaints Commissioner.

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