Undercover cop finds “soul” in one of Vancouver’s poorest postal codes
Katelyn Verstraten, CTV Vancouver
Published Thursday, July 16, 2015 3:41PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, July 17, 2015 8:54AM PDT
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside may not always have the best reputation – but an undercover officer recently saw another side of the neighbourhood when he posed as a wheelchair dependent man for five days.
“One of the best parts of life is uncertainty, so I didn’t know what to expect“, says Staff Sgt. Mark Horsely, who has worked with the Vancouver Police Department for 30 years. “My boss tied a pork chop around my neck, threw me into a shark tank, and so we will see what happens from there.”
VPD statistics show that crimes against people in wheelchairs are high. Between January 2014 and June 2015, 28 violent attacks on a person in a wheelchair were reported – six robberies, 21 assaults, and even one sexual assault – half of which occurred on the Downtown Eastside.
With this in mind, Horsely disguised himself as a paralyzed man with a brain injury in a motorized wheelchair, and went undercover for five days. His mission: to identify the people responsible for a series of appalling attacks on the vulnerable residents in one of Vancouver’s poorest postal codes.
“The community accepted me very quickly as being one of theirs,” says Horsely in a media release. “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.”
As part of his act, Horsely told everyone he met that he couldn’t count. Despite numerous exchanges of money, at the end of the five days he was up by $24.
Video footage shows numerous people assisting Horsely in a variety of ways: helping him to count his money, praying for him, or zipping up a money pouch that was open on the side of his wheelchair.
“Not one person short-changed me,” he says in the YouTube video. “Not one person took advantage of my vulnerability….The generosity and the caring was inspiring. This community has soul.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger