Sunday, June 1, 1997

Ann Sullivan
Contributing writer

p. 10.

Beleaguered East Siders near breaking point

'Move sex trade to Shaughnessy'

IF THE CITY WAS LOOKING for a place to dump its drug and prostitution problems, it picked the wrong neighbourhood in Grandview Woodlands.

Residents and merchants in the East Vancouver neighbourhood have fought for years to rid their area of drug dealers, pimps, johns and prostitutes, pushed there from nearby Mount Pleasant by a police crackdown.

They've held rallies, signed petitions, patrolled the streets at night and written dozens of letters to all levels of government. Now they're getting angry.

Cindy Chan Piper of the Grandview Woodlands Neighbourhood Action Group said living conditions in the area were unbearable this winter. She expects the situation to get worse as warmer weather brings more prostitutes to the streets. And she fears an escalation of civil disobedience.

"The level of anger is high and this summer it's going to erupt into violence," she said.

"If something happens in this neighbourhood," Piper added, "I'll put it on the heads of the politicians who control the police because they've driven us to this."

For years, residents have lived with the fallout from the sex trade -- condoms and needles litter their parks, hookers ply their trade in yards and driveways, sometimes during the day. Two blocks south of Macdonald elementary school is the kiddy stroll, where johns take their pick of child prostitutes.

Last March local residents collected 3,000 names on a petition demanding zero tolerance for sex trade and drug activity in their neighbourhood. Mayor Philip Owen has twice refused to support the demands, saying the proposals would only move the problem to another neighbourhood.

Residents argue the city has already forced the sex trade out of the West End, then to downtown, followed by Strathcona, Mount Pleasant and finally Grandview Woodlands, one of the poorest areas in the city. They want it moved again.

"If you deliberately moved into my neighbourhood and you refuse to move it out, what are you saying about the residents in this area? Piper asked.

Coun. Lynne Kennedy said the city is aware of problems in Grandview Woodlands but she too, said moving the problem to another area does little to solve the underlying problem.

"We absolutely agree that children and drugs and needles and condoms and prostitution and traffic don't mix," Kennedy said, "but the city can't just decide to move ti to Marpole. No one wants it. That's the bottom line everytime we look at [creating] a restricted area."

Piper suggests the less populated port lands north of Grandview Woodlands as a more suitable location for the sex trade. Better still, she said, "Move it to Shaughnessy. There's nice wide boulevards there, there's nice grassy areas... The johns come from there, so it's not a matter of moving the prostitutes but of bringing business closer to the customers."

Residents have planned a rally for June 6 to protest using Grandview Woodlands as the city's unofficial red light district. The rally starts at 6 p.m. at the corner of Hastings and Victoria. There will be free food and music.

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Created: June 28, 1997
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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