After several months of illegal pop-ups selling pot in Vancouver’s Robson Square, police say they are cracking down on the vendors.
Vancouver Police have now arrested four people, plan to arrest a fifth, and say they have recommended a total of 11 criminal charges.
Vancouver man David Hill, 42, has already been charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled substance and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, police said.
VPD Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow said on Tuesday the names of the remaining people arrested will be released once criminal charges are approved by Crown Counsel.
Police say the arrests and charges are just the first phase of Project Apprentice, a “culmination of considerable work by police on this issue” over the past six weeks.
“We have been working with the City of Vancouver and monitoring the situation in the 800-block of Robson Street for several months now,” said Chow.
“The situation… has been a priority for myself as well as the district and it’s evolved significantly over the last number of months.”
The police response to the situation, he added, has been incremental. These “incremental” steps included “warnings and more warnings, as well as bylaw fines and ticketing.”
“However, at each stage, the vendors have refused to cooperate and concerns around public safety have increased,” Chow explained. “As such, we have had to escalate our response.”
At this point in the investigation, he said, police have seized:
“The message to drug traffickers is that if you continue in this activity, expect more charges and arrests.”
All of the people arrested up to this point have been released under the condition they not be found in the 800-block of Robson Street. Still, a Vancouver man in his 20s was arrested on Monday for breaching his release conditions after returning to the site.
Asked about whether police would be returning to the site on a daily basis, after vendors returned to the site on Monday despite being moved out of the area by police, Chow acknowledged that the pot market had “kind of morphed into a 24/7 operation.”
But, he noted, “if you’ve checked anytime after 6 or 7 pm last night, you’ve seen the area around the gallery itself is virtually void of any of the illegal activity that was taking place.”
A component of this investigation, he explained, was that “we did have undercover operators, with this message for any of the traffickers is that your next sale may be to a police officer.”
The project will continue and “this illegal activity is something that we’ve had a priority on,” added Chow.