In the wake of June 12’s Keefer St gaybashing, the Vancouver Police Department revealed Friday it has undercover officers working in the Davie St area.
Chief Const Jim Chu’s surprising revelation came as he joined Mayor Gregor Robertson and gay community leaders to address rising gaybashings.
City LGBTQ advisory committee member Jim Deva was at the press conference.
He’s alarmed by the increasing number of plainclothes officers on the city’s streets.
He wants the chief to produce some statistics to show undercover officers in fact prevent hate crimes.
“Where is there an example of an undercover officer witnessing a hate crime and stopping it?” Deva asks.
Chu says a number of programs are in place to deal with the situation.
“We have, when appropriate, initiated undercover patrols of the West End, where we are being especially vigilant for any gaybashing behaviour. As always, those patrols are backed by highly visible police presence in vehicles, on bicycle and on foot,” Chu says.
The chief says a closer relationship with the gay community has helped lead to increased reporting of hate crimes. He encourages anyone who believes they have been the victim of such a crime to report it.
“You have my word that all calls will be investigated, and we will do everything we can to see that justice is done,” Chu says.
He says he called today’s news conference to address fears in the community around last weekend’s gaybashing and the attention it has received.
Chu also emphasized that as reporting of gaybashings have increased, so too have the numbers of arrests.
A Statistics Canada report released June 14 shows gaybashings across the country more than doubled from 2007 to 2008.
The report echoes an Xtra investigation conducted last October that also found reported gaybashings on the rise in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto.
Deva isn’t sure he buys the suggestion that Vancouver is increasingly violent.
“I really think we put up with less shit in Vancouver than most other cities,” Deva says. “That’s why there is more reporting.”
However, the latest attack put the gay community on edge.
Peter Regier and his partner were returning to their Keefer St home when he says two men hurled “a barrage” of homophobic slurs at them, then physically attacked them.
Regier says he and David Holtzman arrived at their condo doorstep to find two men drinking. One of them began urinating near the door.
When Holtzman objected, the two men allegedly turned on him and Regier, called them “fucking faggots” and “cocksuckers” before assaulting them.
Police have now released photos of the men believed to be involved in the assault.
Chu says when a hate crime occurs, seasoned investigators are assigned to the case.
“We will not stand down until this crime has been solved,” Chu says.
“When a hate crime occurs, it victimizes directly the persons involved, and it will also victimize a whole community. A hate crime will create fear in the broader community,” the chief adds.
Deva also wants any connection between the extreme fighting event at General Motors Place the night of the assault further investigated.
Indeed, Holtzman is challenging the mayor about the wisdom of allowing an Ultimate Fighting Championship in the city.
Deva says if another such event takes place, promoters should be made to run an anti-street violence campaign and, should they exist, have gay ultimate fighters speak to the public.