HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Report Assails Vancouver Police
Pubdate: Thu, 08 May 2003
Source: Wilmington Morning Star (NC)
Copyright: 2003 Wilmington Morning Star
Author: Jeremy Hainsworth / Associated Press


Officials Denied Police Abuse Their Power, Saying the Drug Crackdown is 
Aimed At Dealers

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - A police crackdown on drug dealers in 
downtown Vancouver is causing more harm than good for the neighborhood's 
AIDS and hepatitis epidemic, a Human Rights Watch report says, asserting 
addicts are being driven away from needle-exchange programs and other services.

Called Operation Torpedo, the crackdown has gotten some pushers off the 
streets, "but at a high cost," said the report issued Wednesday by the New 
York-based rights group. Its findings were echoed by health care workers, 
activists and addicts in the city, known for its progressive drug policies.

"The flouting of due process in this crackdown is shocking for a country 
with Canada's strong commitment to human rights," said Joanne Csete, 
director of the HIV/AIDS Program of Human Rights Watch. "Vancouver risks 
making its HIV/AIDS crisis much worse and it's already the worst on the 

Illegal searches and arrests, excessive force and other abuses committed by 
police on addicts not accused of dealing drugs have worsened the already 
dire situation in the 15-block neighborhood on Vancouver's east side, which 
is frequented by more than 5,000 addicts, the report said.

"These actions, which violate Canadian and international human rights 
guarantees, contributed to driving drug users underground and away from 
lifesaving HIV prevention and other health services," it said.

Vancouver police denied officers abuse their power, saying the crackdown is 
aimed at dealers, not users, with a goal of ridding the area of pushers 
while keeping addicts near the services they need.

"This whole report lacks credibility," Inspector Doug LePard said Wednesday.

"There's no reason for addicts to be worried," he said. "We're focusing on 
disorder and we're focusing on traffickers."

Still, health workers fear a new wave of HIV and hepatitis C cases in 
Vancouver, which already has the highest infection rate in North America. 
The British Colombia Center for Disease Control puts the AIDS rate among 
area addicts at more than 30 percent, while well over half the intravenous 
drug users are infected with hepatitis C.

Vancouver is a coastal city known for magnificent mountain and ocean vistas 
and a laid back West Coast lifestyle, along with progressive policies for 
drug addicts.

Mayor Larry Campbell, a former police officer and coroner, won last year's 
election on a platform that included the promise of safe injection sites as 
part of a "four pillar" drug policy involving treatment, prevention, harm 
reduction and enforcement.

So far, Operation Torpedo is the only visible step taken.
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