Police don makeup to catch suspects targeting elderly
Cathryn Atkinson, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, December 18, 2008 7:53PM PST
Two Vancouver police officers were given a Hollywood makeover that turned them into "bait seniors" in order to catch suspects responsible for a string of violent robberies on the elderly in the Downtown Eastside.
Insp. Tim Hadler and Sgt. Toby Hinton were dressed up as old men, using canes, walkers and wheelchairs as props with the aim of looking vulnerable to attack.
Insp. Hadler, in his 60s, is the oldest officer in the VPD with 36 years' experience and a black belt in judo. Sgt. Hinton, 30 years young, used a heavy make-up and rubber mask disguise to change his appearance.
The operation, dubbed Project Oldtimer, began in August after an investigation revealed there had been 69 street robberies on the elderly in 2007, with 80 per cent in the Downtown Eastside.
Police say the victims in the poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside were elderly men who were approached from behind and robbed and assaulted if they resisted. Many had conditions like Parkinson's disease, mental illness, cancer or dementia, and were unable to defend themselves.
Insp. Adam Palmer says many suffered broken ribs, hips or hands while others had fractures to their ankles or cuts to their head.
"[The robberies were] an attack on their dignity, self-confidence, and sense of security and it can negatively affect them for them for the rest of their lives," said Palmer.
The makeup transformed the officers and was highly successful, with the police department arresting 10 people and laid 12 charges following the operation.
The suspects are mostly drug-addicted men who were preying on seniors for wallets, cash and other valuables.
On Thursday afternoon police named the eight suspects charged with robbery in the case. They are Ryan MacGregor, 30, Kevin Weinmeister, 42, Joseph Mathieu, 53, Romana Plocek, 44, Travos Stewart, 29, Podromos Hadgialexioy, 46, Leroy Sellars, 39, and Marlon Watts, 32.
With files from The Canadian Press