06/06/2013 10:21 EDT | Updated 08/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Jaywalking tickets target Vancouver's poorest citizens

Advocates for people living in the Downtown Eastside say Vancouver police continue to target them with nuisance jaywalking tickets.

Pivot Legal Society spokesperson Douglas King says new figures show 76 per cent of jaywalking and about 31 per cent of panhandling tickets handed out in the city over the past four years were written in the Downtown Eastside.

However, King says no jaywalking tickets were given out in Kerrisdale or Dunbar/Southlands.

“When you have one neighbourhood like the Downtown Eastside that’s receiving hundreds of tickets compared to the wealthier neighbourhoods, which are receiving virtually no tickets over that time period, you have to ask yourself what is this about,” he said.

“What is the motivation here? Is it really about public safety or is it about something else?”

King says he and other advocates believe they know what police are after.

“In our opinion, we have real concerns that what is going on here is the circumvention of constitutional protections around street searches and random street searches.”

King says advocates also believe officers are using bylaw offenses as a way to obtain identification so names can be run for outstanding warrants.

The Pivot Legal Society and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users are calling on the city to reduce the number of tickets issued and charges laid for minor offences; develop guidelines for more consistent use of police discretion not to lay charges; and increase the ways in which failures to appear can be quashed early in the judicial process.

Vancouver police, meanwhile, maintain officers don’t target anyone and are only interested in public safety.