The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) says no gaybashings were reported during the Olympic Games, thanks in part to a beefed-up police presence in the Davie Village.
“I don’t recall any [reports] crossing my desk,” says Insp John de Haas, co-chair of the VPD’s Diversity and Aboriginal Policing Section.
De Haas says the VPD dispatched two extra officers on bicycles to the gay village during the Games, though he could not confirm the number of officers generally assigned to the area.
At the request of the city’s gay advisory committee, the VPD met with committee members and Qmunity, Vancouver’s queer resource centre, to discuss the VPD’s plans to ensure the queer community’s safety during the Games.
De Haas says concerns were raised about people coming from parts of the world where there is “a lot more prejudice, a lot more homophobia and what would be the impact when they were in an environment where we’re very respectful and have more rights.”
Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of Qmunity, was initially concerned about violence during the Games, but her fears were put to rest thanks to the “positive vibe that was all over the city.”
“Once this vibe became evident, I would have been surprised if there had been violence.”
Ron Stipp, a member of the gay advisory committee and co-founder of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere (WEAVE), says he with impressed with the VPD’s measures to protect the queer community. Stipp says the VPD even suggested it contact the gay advisory committee if anything happened so members could liaise with their community.
“I thought that was a very positive initiative. But nothing happened. They didn’t have to call, because nothing happened.”
Stipp says WEAVE has been pushing for permanent beat cops in the gay village for the last five or six years.
“The sense that police are part of the community — that they’re walking in our Village, talking to people, making sure that everybody feels safe — it’s all part of positive policing. I hope they would consider doing this all the time.”
De Haas says having more officers walking the streets would be a “smart thing to do,” especially as a security measure during large events. “I’m going to continue to ask the people that control [the resources] whether that’s a possibility.”
But de Haas also says that simply increasing the number of police on the ground isn’t enough to combat gaybashing. “We really want to continue to work with Qmunity in prevention and messaging. Just having police presence isn’t always the answer.”