Local crime stories

Russil Wvong

Crime is becoming a big issue in Greater Vancouver: there's lots of stories in the newspaper about break-ins, car theft, home invasions, robbery, crack dealing, even the occasional drive-by shooting. So far, I hasten to point out, I haven't seen any of this myself: my apartment hasn't been broken into, my car hasn't been stolen, I haven't witnessed any drive-by shootings. (I live in New Westminster and work in Burnaby.) Vancouver doesn't seem like a dangerous place to live -- at least, until you read the paper.

Summaries of recent stories from local newspapers:

The Record, 28 October 1998, p. 1: Crack dealers retreat inside (Martha Wickett)

Undercover police arrested 20 people at an apartment in the 300 block of 9th Street, and seized 80 rocks of crack cocaine, as well as another chunk that could be divided into 50 rocks.

With the increased police presence downtown, the dealers had moved into the apartment, and sent runners downtown to let users know they had moved. The large number of people going into and out of the apartment -- 50 people an hour -- had alerted the neighbors and the police.

The Record, 25 October 1998, p. 1: Downtown drug bust nets 6 (Martha Wickett)

Police carried out a four-day sweep from Tuesday to Friday last week, arresting at least 20 people. The article describes the arrest of a young Honduran woman by undercover police officers; she had stashed 40 rocks of crack cocaine in the New Westminster Quay produce section. The article also describes the sophistication of the drug dealers, who use pagers and cell phones to warn each other of police surveillance.

City council has allocated an extra $200,000 to the police budget for extra policing downtown, and it seems to be helping.

The Record, 21 October 1998, p. 1: Cops nab 11-year-olds selling drugs (Martha Wickett)

10 girls were arrested or detained downtown over the weekend for selling crack, including two 11-year-olds, one 12-year-old, three 14-year-olds, and one 15-year-old. Two of them were from New Westminster elementary schools. The 15-year-old has been charged; the others were turned over to their parents or the ministry for children and families.

The previous week, police arrested 80 drug dealers across the Lower Mainland in a major crackdown, Project Scoop. Apparently drug dealers are now worried about being spotted and arrested, so they've been recruiting children to sell the drugs for them.

Some of the girls had past problems, but others didn't. The drug dealers who recruited them promised them $150 for three hours, failing to point out that anyone 12 or older will end up with a criminal record.

The Record, 18 October 1998, p. 6: Drug dealers are everyone's concern (Dan Hilborn)

Editorial by the assistant editor of the Burnaby Now. This summer, a large group of Honduran drug dealers moved into his building, bringing drug users with them. The company managing the building did nothing for almost two months. Eventually, a new manager arrived in September, and evicted drug dealers from five suites for failing to pay their rent. By that time, many of the long-term residents had already moved out.

Burnaby NewsLeader, 26 July 1998, p. 1: City asks feds for help with crack dealers (Rob Gerein)

Burnaby city council has asked the federal government to help pay for the Burnaby RCMP's crack-cocaine task force. Crack investigations by Burnaby RCMP, Vancouver police, and New Westminster police have identified three apartment blocks in the 6600 block of Dow Avenue as a major production, distribution, and trafficking centre for crack cocaine.

Roughly 200 refugees from the Teguchgulpa area of Honduras have been living in the buildings, with more arriving daily. Recruiters promise them $500 a month from social assistance and $200 a day for selling crack in Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster. "These people are reported to be paying as much as $5,000 for this opportunity."

The owner of the buildings has met with Burnaby RCMP and city council, and most of the tenants were recently evicted.

The Record, 19 July 1998, p. 7: Crime, noise drives couple out of Royal City into Vancouver (Dawn Rae Downton)

In a letter to the paper, a journalist writes that she and her husband are moving from New Westminster to downtown Vancouver in a month, after a year of living across the street from what she describes as not merely a crack house, but a "crack apartment block" housing multiple drug dealers. She describes Third Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets as receiving an abundance of noisy visitors between 2 and 6 am, along with shrieking, shouts, and violence.

Burnaby NewsLeader, 15 July 1998, p. 7: Community support needed to rid city of 'drug dens' (Joan M. Sawicki)

The MLA for Burnaby-Willingdon writes in response to a NewsLeader article ("Owners challenged to stay in drug dens," 8 July 1998) about drug dens in the 6600 block of Dow Avenue, close to the Metrotown SkyTrain station. The police recently arrested a number of people who were running a crack cocaine factory in the area: they would use the SkyTrain to take the crack to downtown Vancouver and to downtown New Westminster for distribution.

Sawicki writes that she's been discussing the problems in the area with the RCMP. She also indicates that the buildings in question are privately owned and managed rental properties, not social housing as stated in the article.

The Record, 21 June 1998, p. 3: And the drug deals continue... (Martha Wickett)

A special report describes the crack-dealing problem in downtown New Westminster. One downtown business owner in the 700 block of Columbia says that business has dropped off by 100 to 150 percent since the influx of crack dealers late last year. Dealing has dropped off near the New Westminster Skytrain Station on 8th Street, but increased further down Columbia Street towards 4th Street.

The report describes a drug bust at Columbia and Begbie: the police tackle the suspects and clamp their hands around the suspects' necks, to prevent them from getting rid of the evidence by swallowing their caches of crack cocaine.

There hasn't been much violence downtown, but a street worker describes crack users as frighteningly desperate. "I've seen where, after police have taken people down, there'll be six users on the ground, looking for pieces of it (that might have been dropped)."

According to New Westminster police, more than 50 percent of crack dealers arrested downtown are from Latin America, largely Honduras. A development agency worker indicates that extreme poverty pushes some Hondurans into the drug trade, but also points out that there isn't much difference between the majority of people in Honduras and Canada: most Hondurans are hard-working and serious, with only a minority involved in criminal activities.

The Record, 3 June 1998, p. 1: Drug dealer beaten (Martha Wickett)

A drug dealer was beaten while attempting to sell a man drugs. The story doesn't say much about the assailant, but describes him as a citizen expressing the frustration many downtown merchants and residents have been feeling about crack dealers. The police later put out a press release urging citizens to contact police rather than taking matters into their own hands. The police also stated that the drug dealer lost 19 individually wrapped pieces of rock cocaine during the scuffle, and ran away before police arrived; they aren't expecting him to reclaim his property.

Burnaby NewsLeader, 3 June 1998, p. 1: A day in the park turns dangerous (Rob Gerein)

As an elderly Burnaby couple and their grandchildren were feeding squirrels in the Variety Park area of Central Park, three young men approached them. One of them produced a handgun and demanded money. The couple handed over a wallet, and the suspects fled towards the Patterson SkyTrain station. Police cordoned off and searched the area, but did not locate the suspects. The suspects are described as Indo-Canadian or Middle Eastern, between 17 and 20 years old.
Burnaby NewsLeader, 3 June 1998, p. 3: Young boy struck by police cruiser

A group of four or five men armed with a baseball bat, machete, meat cleaver, and a steel pipe attacked a 16-year-old in the Station Square parking lot. Several bystanders and mall security staff intervened; two bystanders fought with the machete-wielding suspect, and the suspects fled in a red Suzuki Swift. A 16-year-old suspect was arrested shortly afterward.

[The article's title refers to a separate incident: a young boy was struck by a police car after darting out between two parked cars to chase a ball, and was taken to hospital with a broken leg and mild concussion. A preliminary investigation indicates that the police officer was not speeding.]

The Record, 17 May 1998, p. 1: Pool staff catch a thief (Martha Wickett)

A woman attempted to steal a wallet from the staff room at the Canada Games Pool. The staff was able to catch her; she turned out to be a crack user. A New Westminster resident describes the staff as jubilant on returning to the complex. "They all had their hands in the air and were cheering, 'Yea' - they looked like a SWAT team."

The Record, 6 May 1998, p. 1: Bylaw bans boorish behaviours (Theresa McManus)

New Westminster council is considering an anti-nuisance bylaw, developed by the city's task force on community problems and social issues, to combat drug dealing and open drug use. The bylaw makes it illegal to urinate or defecate on sidewalks or streets, to impede or obstruct the free movement of other people, and from making noises which may disturb the neighborhood.

Vancouver Sun, 4 February 1998: Police charge home invasion suspects (Linsay Kines)

10 people in a home invasion ring were charged Tuesday with more than 80 offences. Those charged include George (Cheung Tien) Wang, 24, of Richmond; Jean Guy Lahn, 18 of New Westminster; Kasey Smith, 21, of Surrey; Mario Lassard, 18, of Vancouver; Justin Lance Perrier, 20; Philip (Yoon Suk) Choy; John Christopher Carter, 19, of Vancouver; and two juveniles, both 17.

New Westminster NewsLeader, 4 February 1998: Home invasion ring centred in New West, police say (Rob Gerein)

A group of 20 people in New Westminster, Vancouver, Richmond, and Surrey were arrested Monday afternoon in connection with dozens of home invasions over the last two months, in which senior citizens and families were tied up, beaten, threatened, and robbed in their homes. The gang headquarters was at 1025 St. Andrews Street, a middle-class neighborhood in New Westminster. At the headquarters, police seized a loaded Mach-9 pistol, several rounds of ammunition, cocaine, and jewelry.

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Last updated 29 October 1998