Downtown Eastside residents say tickets unfair
Published Sunday, February 15, 2009 8:31PM PST
The 2010 Olympics are being blamed for police sweeps and aggressive ticketing in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood.
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside -- is where addicts can openly inject drugs on the street -- but jaywalking is an offense that comes with a ticket and a fine of $25 for people who can least afford to pay.
Activists say police are giving out more and more tickets to clean up the Downtown Eastside in time for the Games. And they claim the tactics are wreaking havoc for the most needy.
"I think that's ridiculous, they wouldn't do that on Granville, they wouldn't do that on Robson, and people do that over there," said local resident Paula Potter.
Vancouver police issued a flurry of tickets in the Downtown Eastside last year. Community groups say officers are targeting residents for minor infractions.
"We're seeing things like ticketing for jaywalking, spitting, and "illegal" vending," said Harsha Walia of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre.
It's being executed as part of the province's Safe Streets Act, passed in 2004 to crack down on aggressive panhandling, and championed by former Mayor Sam Sullivan. The mayor came up with his "project civil city" plan in response in order to deal with public disorder.
Last year, officers issued 467 tickets for violations under the safe streets act, more than double the previous year, the majority of them in Canada's poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.
Residents say it's all about maintaining an image before the Olympics.
And there are plans to increase ticketing the area even more. According to the VPD's draft business plan for 2009, the target is a minimum of four street checks per officer per block.
"It's totally unfair and totally disrespectful," said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project.
"Imagine how you would feel if you had no money and stepped off the pavement and you got a ticket for jaywalking, knowing nobody cares about your safety, that really it's about scooping you off the streets for the Olympics."
Not paying the ticket can mean ending up in jail or being banned from the neighbourhood.
The fight will go to court this week. Residents are being encouraged to contest their tickets on Tuesday.
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Jina You.