British Columbia

Operation Oldtimer cuts robberies of elderly: police

Eight people have been charged with robbery following a three-month sting operation by Vancouver police, who said the thieves preyed on senior and disabled people.

Eight people have been charged with robbery following a three-month sting operation by Vancouver police, who said the thieves preyed on senior and disabled people.

Operation Oldtimer was launched to address the rising number of attacks on older men in the Downtown Eastside.

"Most of the victims we're seeing in these events were elderly men, often walking with canes [or] walkers," Insp. Adam Palmer said.

"We also saw people being victimized who had Parkinson's and some of them were cancer patients," he said.

Undercover officers with stage makeup posed as seniors between August and October, and it didn't take long for robbers to move in.

"We had an incident where our undercover officer was posing as a disabled person in a wheelchair and that person was robbed within 20 minutes of being deployed on the street," said Palmer

"We had another incident where we had another undercover officer set up outside an old folks home and they were robbed right outside," he said.

Sgt. Toby Hinton, 44, had to undergo extensive work from a make-up artist to add 20 to 30 years to his appearance.

"You definitely take a walk in somebody else's shoes when you go through that process," Hinton said. "I felt vulnerable out there and I had a big security blanket of police officers that were working with me."

He said he didn't have to wait long to see what was happening when he was on the street in disguise.

"I was surprised that on two separate occasions we had robberies that occurred of an elderly, disabled individual in under half an hour of being out there."

Police arrested 10 people during their operation, adding in the two months since the sting, robberies in the neighbourhood have dropped a remarkable 59 per cent.

Police said there were 69 street robberies of seniors in Vancouver last year, including 55 in the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona, another troubled area nearby.

With files from the Canadian Press