A Vancouver Police Department (VPD) undercover operation caught on video unexpectedly captured compassionate stranger-to-stranger interactions in the Downtown Eastside.
Staff Sergeant Mark Horsley went undercover in the Downtown Eastside in an operation to capture individuals who were victimizing the vulnerable.
Between January 2014 and June 2015, 28 incidents throughout Vancouver were reported to police where a person in a wheelchair was violently attacked, including 21 assaults, six robberies, and one sexual assault. More than half of the crimes occurred in the Downtown Eastside.
For five days, Sergeant Horsley disguised himself to portray an impaired person in a motorized wheelchair with cognitive disabilities.
“The community accepted me very quickly as being one of theirs,” explains Horsely in the aftermath.
Horsely said in all the encounters he faced, he would tell strangers he couldn’t count — though making himself vulnerable didn’t draw people to take advantage of him. In all cases, individuals who asked for change would return the exact amount.
“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,” said Horsley.
In another case, a man reached down for his money pouch — and contrary to what one might expect — he zipped it up. He then told Horsely of his troubles taking care of his own mother in a wheelchair.
“This community has soul, victimizing the vulnerable is far beneath the people of the Downtown Eastside. For the very rare, and despicable person who is willing to victimize vulnerable people, you should know”
The VPD isn’t considering this a failed operation. Instead, Horsely took the opportunity to warn that people who look to victimize the vulnerable will be met with heaps of resistance.
“The police are watching — but more importantly, the people of the Downtown Eastside are watching.”