2 min

‘They’re scary’

Hard-drug dealers move to Bute & Davie

Credit: Robin Perelle

Drug dealers openly sell their wares. Prostitutes and pimps on Davie St strike deals with johns on the main drag. Stolen goods are part of an open street market.

A scene from Janis Cole and Holly Dales’ 1984 documentary Hookers On Davie-before a clean-up that paved the way for the gay community’s growth?


Bute and Thurlow last week.

Merchants at the intersection say the proliferation of hard-drug dealing, pimping and the sale of stolen goods has skyrocketed since the Apr 7 start of the Vancouver Police Department’s crackdown on the Downtown Eastside.

And they want to know what the police are going to do about it.

Hamburger Mary’s chef/manager George Adams says he watched a prostitution transaction happen near the Bute St liquor store.

“We got rid of that,” he says. “We’ve always had a little bit but ever since the police crackdown in the East End, they didn’t solve anything there, they just moved it over here.

“I wish they would do something to alleviate that.”

And, Adams adds, Nelson Park has become a no-go zone for residents as transients have made it a big campsite.

“You can’t enjoy the park or tan or something,” he says. “Everything that’s being sold there is either stolen or picked out of the garbage.”

Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) president Randy Atkinson says the alleys have become neighbourhoods of cardboard homes. He says the re-emergence of crime at the corner has become a real problem. If one wanted to pick a date for its start, Apr 7 is as good as any, Atkinson says.

“It’s a direct result of that,” he says. The people there are much different than the usual West End panhandling crowd which has populated the corner for years, he adds.

“They’re more aggressive. They’re threatening. They’re scary.”

At West Valley Produce on Bute Street, manager Andrew Lo has put bars on his store after 25 years in business. He’s tired of people sleeping outside his store, people stealing from his outdoor stands.

“They make a mess. We have to clean it up every morning-needles, garbage, coffee cups, dirty clothing.”

Lo started a petition asking city hall to clean the situation up. he says there’s been no response. The occasional police presence scares the crowds away for about five minutes. Then they’re back, Lo says.

“I’m just getting tired of calling police,” he says. “You can’t call police every five minutes. They laugh at you.”

The Davie and Bute corner was not mentioned in a Jun 27 police report to council which, it acknowledges the crackdown has shifted some of the hard-drug problems to areas outside the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

“The dramatic reduction in disorder in the DTES has resulted in some dispersal of problems in the DTES, and has exacerbated a pre-existing drug trafficking problem focussed in the area of Dunsmuir and Seymour,” the report notes.

Adams says he was told nothing could be done about the situation when he approached the Davie Community Policing Centre. But Atkinson says the BIA has had a good response, especially from Det Roz Shakespeare.

Atkinson says the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area has used its Ambassador program to move “undesirables” along. He says the Davie BIA would like to see more enforcement in the village.

Atkinson was also critical of the provincial government, saying cuts to disability payments have forced many people into panhandling.