It’s been called a chemical gulag, a place where the most hardcore drug addicts plunge poison into their veins in search of the ultimate high.
It’s been defended as Vancouver’s last refuge for the marginalized and working poor, the majority of them law-abiding citizens who rarely have contact with police.
It’s been labeled (incorrectly) Canada’s poorest postal code, a distinction that rightly goes to New Brunswick’s Burnt Church First Nation.
Whatever you call it, make no mistake. Life is hard on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
No doubt you’ve heard about the Downtown Eastside. You’ve probably read about it or seen it talked about on TV. You may have driven through once or twice, maybe even got out of your car.
But do you really know what it’s like to walk the streets and gutters of Vancouver’s Skid Row? Do you really know what it’s like to stand inside a one-room hovel with no toilet or running water? To dodge bed bugs that drip from the ceiling? To stamp out cockroaches as they scurry up your shoes and burrow into your socks?
Do you really know what it’s like to see the misery? To smell it? To taste it in the air?
I do. And so does the rest of Vancouver Police Department’s Beat Enforcement Team. We are the first line of defence against the violence, crime and misery that plagues this neighbourhood. We are the last resort for people with nowhere else to turn.
Welcome to a new blog about policing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In the coming weeks and months I will use this space to share my insights, reflections and anecdotes about the life of a Hastings Street beat cop. The goal is to give you a first-hand and unfiltered look from the eyes of a beat cop on the Downtown Eastside, and to entertain, inform and ignite discussion about the pressures emergency responders face in this dangerous, political and unpredictable neighbourhood.
I invite you to check back frequently, and to share your thoughts and questions by commenting on a specific post or by emailing me at email@example.com.