Proposed Strathcona community policing centre sparks controversy

At council today, the City of Vancouver will consider whether to establish a new community policing centre in the Strathcona neighbourhood as part of the response to the overdose crisis.

City of Vancouver today will consider establishing a new policing centre

Police look at evidence at a crime scene on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Some advocates are opposing a proposed community policing centre in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood — Strathcona includes the Downtown Eastside.

The policing centre is in response to the opioid overdose crisis. The standard annual operating fund of such a centre is $108,200, and the Vancouver Police Department estimates an additional start-up cost of $100,000.

The B.C. Coroners Service reported 215 Vancouverites died of drug overdose deaths in 2016, and some call Vancouver's Downtown Eastside the epicentre of the crisis.

The Carnegie Community Action Project — an advocacy group — called the funding "shameful", declaring the Downtown Eastside the most "policed neighbourhood in [the] city."

Laura Shaver, president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, said the money could be allocated in more efficient ways.

"This money could go to organizations that are already in the Downtown Eastside equipped in doing these things, instead of building something new that actually would harm the drug users and make them hide instead of coming in somewhere safe to use," she said.

Could be a bridge

But Dan Jackson, a council member of the Strathcona Resident's Association, supports the centre. He said the association has requested a community policing centre for some time.

He disagreed the centre would force drug users underground.

"I think it plays a role in that it allows the community in which that crisis is happening in to have a voice and a mechanism to express their own safety concerns rather than just be an isolated problem within the drug-user community that they feel that they can address on their own."

With files from The Early Edition and On the Coast

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Strathcona Resident's Association supports proposed community policing centre and VANDU objects to proposed community policing centre in Strathcona