Sister Watch town halls continue at Carnegie

"Sister Watch" branded lighter photos by Zi-Ann Lum

Pungent incense filled the air at the Carnegie Theatre on Main and Hastings Streets, as the Vancouver Police Department hosted a third town hall at the Carnegie Community Centre on Friday. The meeting was part of a new VPD initiative called Sister Watch, to “protect women in the Downtown Eastside.”

“There was a tragedy that happened in the community and that was the death of Ashley Machiskinic.” VPD Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard said. “Her death really was the catalyst for this third meeting we are having today.”

Machiskinic was a 22-year-woman who fell to her death from a fifth-floor window from the Regent Hotel on September 15, 2010.

The main agenda items were to:
  • Update the community regarding new emergency telephones installed in the community;
  • Publicly announce the number of reported sexual assaults to the VPD;
  • Introduce beat officers and their perspectives about their work and co-workers; and
  • Answer questions and discuss concerns from community members.

 

Chairs were arranged in a circle, a marked contrast from the previous two meetings. “I think this is a much more comfortable and equal setting for us,” said Staff Sergeant Joanne Boyle.

The new seating arrangement did little to soothe palpable tension throughout the meeting.

A Downtown Eastside resident identifying himself as Dean spoke about “mixed messages” from the police.

“Are you there to help us, or is it just one hand’s here and the other hand is beating us?” he asked. “I think this is what needs to be resolved.”

Source: Vancouver Police Department

The VPD announced that between 2001 to 2010:

  • 626 cases of sexual assault were reported
  • Out of the 626 cases, police recommended pressing charges in 124 cases, or roughly 20 per cent
  • Of the 124 cases, 90 per cent, or 112 cases were approved by the Crown Counsel.

“That’s a quite good success rate,” LePard said about the 62 per cent of cases that result in a conviction or conviction of a lesser assault.

Sixty-two per cent equals 26 sexual assault cases in the last ten years that has resulted in a conviction, or a conviction of a lesser assault.

Source: Vancouver Police Department

Louisa Russell of the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter saw the situation differently.

“Your biggest chance of having your [sexual assault] case dismissed or not going anywhere, is at initial police response, and that’s what’s not being said,” Russell said.

LePard acknowledged Rusell’s concerns, stating that the he recognizes the importance of advocacy work.

You can listen to my audio recording of the meeting from 11:00 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. (note that I had to leave early, so this is a partial recording of the full meeting, which was scheduled to run until 12:30 p.m.).

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