British Columbia

Vancouver police call for safe drug supply

VPD Organized Crime Section Inspector Bill Spearn says addiction is a health-care issue and providing addicts with a safe supply of drugs will save lives and reduce crime.

Organized crime inspector says addiction is a health-care issue, not a criminal one

Vancouver police officers are pictured in an alley off Hastings Street in the DTES in Vancouver, British Columbia in September 2019. The force supports the supply of clean drugs to reduce crime and help save lives. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The very people whose job it is to enforce the laws in Vancouver want to see a safe supply of drugs made available to addicts.

As pleas from advocates and health experts for safe supply continue to mount, the Vancouver Police Department says it shares the view that addiction is a health-care issue and not a criminal justice matter.

"We support safe supply and treatment on demand,' said Bill Spearn, an inspector with the VPD's Organized Crimes Section, adding criminalizing the addicted drives them toward crime. 

'If there were things like safe supply out there, there would be no need for the police to go around seizing illegal drugs," Spearn told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition on Friday.

Spearn said the VPD has supported safe supply for years, because not only does the force believe it will save lives, but, he says, because it will also reduce crime, which addicts often resort to when they need money for a fix.

There has been a rise in violent crime in recent weeks in what is known to police as District 2, which includes the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and Oppenheimer Park where a large concentration of drug users resides.

So far this year, police say they have seized 453 firearms, almost half of which were from District 2.

Spearn said not only does the VPD believe less crimes will be committed, but more people will stay alive and be able to access treatment if a safe supply of drugs was made readily available.

To hear the complete interview with Spearn, see the audio link below:


With files from The Early Edition and Estefania Duran


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