Old-time beat cop meets new Posted on November 13, 2011 by Steve He walked the Hastings Street beat long before anyone had ever dreamed of AIDS, HIV or taxpayer-funded buildings where you could plunge heroin into your veins. The Charter of Rights was still ten years in the future, and it would be two decades before so-called hockey fans would riot in the streets of Vancouver — for the first time — following the Canucks’ Game 7 loss in 1994. There was no Twitter or Facebook to whip people into a frenzy. They had to use old-fashioned ways to organize rallies and marches — by knocking on doors and dialing rotary phones. There were no iPhones to record his every move, and no police complaints commissioner breathing down his neck every time he said something that might hurt someone’s feelings. For Bernie “Whistling” Smith, Hastings Street in the 1970s was a hard place. But he had easy answers. His methods were unconventional, abrasive and a little controversial. But they worked. Bernie “Whistling” Smith “What are we going to do to keep the young people away from drugs? I think one of the things is to make it difficult on the streets […]
Watch online now at oddsquad.com/videos RestART is a restorative justice art program that provides youth who have previously engaged in illegal graffiti with opportunities to express themselves in a positive way under mentorship from established local artists and community members. The RestART Program has experienced success with deterring youth participants from reentering the illegal graffiti subculture.
Vancouver Police Sergeant Kalwinder Dosanjh oversees a squad of officers in the Downtown Eastside.
Posted by Steve One of the lead news stories in Vancouver today was a study which found that illicit drugs are rampant on the streets of Vancouver. The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS reported that drugs such as heroin, cocaine, meth and marijuana can be bought on Vancouver’s streets in as little as 10 minutes. Go figure. And in other news, a plane landed safely today at YVR. I’m not sure what’s more frustrating — that this problem continues to fester after years of enforcement, education and even harm reduction, or that some people are just waking up to the fact that it’s about as easy to buy crack in Downtown Vancouver as it is to find a Starbucks. By the way, there’s a Starbucks on just about every corner. What appears of particular concern to the study’s authors is that street drugs are just as accessible to young people as they are to adults, if not more. “Among the 330 youth aged 14-26 involved in the study, nearly 63% reported accessing crystal methamphetamine in as little as 10 minutes, compared to 39% of adult users. Young drug users also reported significantly easier access to marijuana, with 88% saying they could obtain the […]
Season 2 Premieres Sunday July 29 at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT Back for a much anticipated second season, THE BEAT, produced by Montreal based Galafilm Production, delivers the same gritty, high-octane action as it did the first time around. Over 10 riveting episodes, the show follows the Vancouver Police Department’s Beat Enforcement Team, as they patrol the city’s Downtown Eastside— a hotbed of drug abuse, prostitution, mental illness and violent crime. Maintaining order in a place like this is no small task. It takes tireless work, and a ready supply of courage and compassion. Luckily, the men and women of the BET are up to the challenge. The Beat delivers in-your-face confrontations as the B.E.T. patrols, serves, and protects the city’s downtown eastside community – a hotbed of drug abuse, prostitution, mental illness, and violent crime. Maintaining order will not be easy, and to do so takes tireless work with a ready supply of courage and compassion. Is the B.E.T up to the challenge? Led by 20-year veteran Sgt. Toby Hinton and adrenaline junkie Sgt. Mark Steinkampf, The Beat follows the intersecting stories of six police officers who live for the street. The squad includes Const. Hobbs, a third generation police officer […]
Posted by Steve Five days past her 18th birthday, she was hooting on a crack pipe near the corner of Hastings and Columbia. She tossed the glass pipe to the pavement as we approached and tried to blend in with the crowd. “Please don’t arrest me,” the pretty redhead pleaded as I grabbed her arm to prevent her from running away. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I just want to talk to you.” My god, she looked young. Dressed in jean shorts and a button-up shirt that was tied in a knot just above the belly button, she looked like she should have been riding a tire swing at the family cottage, not getting high on Hastings Street. Though her hair was unwashed and her face was breaking out in sores, I could tell she was still early in her suffering. The addiction hadn’t fully taken control of her. I wanted to help her. We talked as I ran the girl’s name through the police database. Her story reminded me that addiction does not discriminate between race, gender or class. The product of a tony West Vancouver neighbourhood, she began experimenting with hallucinogens — magic mushrooms and LSD — at age 15. […]
Airing: Season 2 Premieres Sunday July 29 at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT Never before have television cameras had unlimited access to the police that patrol Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the most controversial neighborhoods in North America. The Beat is a ten-part docu-soap series that presents a gritty, behindthe-scenes look at the challenges faced by The Beat Enforcement Team’s Squad Three, as they tirelessly work to maintain order in a community crippled by poverty, drug addiction and mental illness. Drawn from hundreds of hours of footage, shot night and day over six full months, The Beat captures every corner and crevasse of the Downtown Eastside’s 12 square blocks. See rooming house raids, undercover sting operations, stakeouts, petty thieves and major drug gangs being brought to justice in a neighborhood that’s home to an estimated 5,000 hardcore drug users and a population with the highest HIV infection rate in the developed world. The Beat also offers a glimpse at the officers away from their daily patrols, where the rigors of work are balanced with the pleasures of family life. Click here to visit the OLN Website
Toby Hinton a 23-year veteran of VPD VANCOUVER COURIER Sgt. Toby Hinton, a beat cop on the Downtown Eastside and 23-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department, has seen firsthand the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol. He works in an overwhelmingly negative environment. But with unprecedented access to tragic life stories, Hinton was determined to do something positive to educate at-risk groups of the dangers of substance abuse and other criminal behaviour. He, along with six other officers founded Odd Squad Productions, a volunteer band of police officers who produce movies to keep kids clean and off the street. The non-profit group, which recently marked its 15th anniversary, has produced more than 15 documentaries telling real stories of the pitfalls of drug abuse, gangs and other high-risk behaviour. Through a Blue Lens-perhaps their most notable documentary that was produced in partnership with the National Film Board-has been viewed by millions in 22 countries. Scathed & Stolen Lives and Tears for April have both received accolades at the New York Film Festival. The squad also makes presentations to schools, community centres and boardrooms. The group has also enlisted high school students to spread the word. Its On Track program takes […]
Posted on June 25, 2012 by Steve A young hipster in skinny jeans and a plaid shirt stopped me on West Hastings Street the other day. “So, when are you gonna start arresting some of the drug dealers out here?” he asked. It was a bit of a sarcastic comment, so I dished a little of the same back his way. “Sure,” I said. “You point ‘em out to me and I’ll go arrest them.” We were standing outside the Burns Block, a century-old building and former low-income hotel that was recently converted into 30 “micro-lofts.” It’s part of the so-called gentrification of the Downtown Eastside. This hipster had apparently just moved into the area, likely wanting to live in Vancouver’s edgiest neighbourhood, but perhaps not quite realizing his front door was just steps away from ground zero in the city’s open-air drug market. ‘They’re everywhere,” he said. “I walk down the street and all I get is people trying to sell me drugs.” Despite the cheekiness of our initial exchange, I could tell he was genuine. I empathized with his frustration. He felt like the police were not doing enough to deal with the drug problem in the area. Looking around at […]
By Kelly Marion Photos by Kelly J Marion –> @kellyjean247 Odd Squad Productions (OSP) held their 15th Annual Fundraiser Gala this month and sold out at over 1000 guests. The Vancouver Convention Centre was overflowing with black ties and evening gowns, with everyone looking chic as they perused the silent auction and sipped on a glass of wine. The large support was shown through people of all ages, social statuses and races including many from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). What began as a community of volunteer police offers determined to beat work on the East side of Vancouver in 1997, is now an organization at the forefront as a highly regarded resource directed at prevention education and awareness for youth. They began using the scare tactic with the debut of their award-winning “Through a Blue Lens” production. Take a moment to watch the film and you’ll understand the effect it can have. Since then, they have grown to incorporate many educational videos and peer-to-peer programs in an effort to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. After a walk down the red carpet with the VPD lining each side, the night unfolded in to an evening of entertainment, education and eating. There was a special marine […]
This OMNI News broadcast include exclusive footage provided by The Odd Squad Productions Society of Deceased Gangster Gurmit Dhak. CLICK HERE to WATCH the OMNI News: Punjabi Edition
Volume 73 of Vancouver Is Awesome: POSTED BY RICK CHUNG 15th anniversary Odd Squad Gala at Vancouver Convention Centre West on June 7, 2012. Hashtag: #OddSquadGala. More photos available on Flickr. The Odd Squad celebrated fifteen years with their annual gala. For the unaware, TOS is a local organization started to keep troubled youth off the street and away from drugs, gangs, and violence. I had no idea of the strong Vancouver PD association. The night’s gala affair included special guests like Winnipeg Jets player Evander Kane, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chief Constable Jim Chu, board memberJim Byrnes, and other local celebrities. TOS includes a strong documentary program, producing an Oscar-nominated short on policeman Whistling Smith as well as peer-to-peer component, and talks from reformed gang members. I was curious about the whole “odd” theme and moniker, considering the VPD association. Evidently, it started from a saying and even including a musical set from The Odds. The night included some special entertainment from dragon dancers, a boat show, vintage car display, and host of other entertainment. The celebration brought together a few of the higher aspects of local charity, reminding us to do our part, support good causes, and never forget to improve our surroundings and contribute to our society.
Calgary’s Jan Hudec made his Olympic debut in Vancouver in 2010, but this week he came here for a completely different experience. And it left him feeling humbled and grateful for the opportunities he has as a full-time athlete. Hudec, 30, toured the Downtown Eastside Wednesday night through a program run by Odd Squad Production Society, a non-profit organization established by retired and current Vancouver police officers to educate and empower youth (I spoke with Odd Squad and wrote about this project in Wednesday’s The Province). Hudec along with national team speedskaters Jamie Gregg, Christine Nesbitt, Cindy Klassen and Brittany Schussler spent several hours talking to homeless people and those suffering from addictions. They shared their life stories and talked about how they ended up where they are today. “We talked about where they came from, what things were like growing up,” Hudec said in a release from Alpine Canada. “We asked some pretty direct questions, like whether they even wanted to get clean. It was interesting. “One of the answers I came away with was that sometimes people get into situations that they don’t think they can get out of any more.” Hudec also has a story to tell. With […]
Leave a comment ‘Behind the Blue Line’ » By: firstname.lastname@example.org Two Friday’s ago, the Odd Squad gave their drug presentation to my daughter’s sports team to provide the girls a basic understanding about the hazards of drug use. The presentation was the same provided to high schools but was tailored to the small group, which was ideal as the girls were in their peer environment. In addition to the officers giving the talk, hubby and I were also there – me in uniform, and hubby as a chaperone – but we left the room when it came time for Q&A so the girls would feel comfortable asking whatever questions they needed to ask. Apparently, they asked some excellent questions. The officers giving the talk weren’t sworn to secrecy; they were respecting the girls and allowing them the freedom of unfettered curiosity so I’m not sure of the exact questions, but what was clear was this – even though they have heard about cocaine and heroin, the girls showed their naivety and innocence by not knowing what the drugs actually were, and their questions focused more around drinking and cigarettes. In the end, we, as parents and educators, cannot make decisions for our children, […]
by Brittany Schussler | Skating | Long Track Click here for the original ‘SportCafe’ post This week I was fortunate to have the eye-opening experience of taking a trip to downtown Vancouver with the ODD Squad. The Odd Squad is a group of police officers who are using their experiences in the East area of Vancouver, one of the most drug and crime ridden areas in North America, to educate youth about the dangers of drug addiction. The Odd Squad has been operating for 15 years and has made a handful of documentaries about their experiences. They also take people such as myself with them to walk around the area and get the full experience in order to be able to share it with people in their community. My night with the Odd Squad began with a 90 minute presentation about why the program exists and what we should be prepared to see. The presentation made me nervous, to say the least. The most experience I have with drugs is seeing other kids smoking joints at high school parties. So, to go out on the street and talk to someone smoking from a crack pipe is beyond shocking. The video presentation […]
Interview with a gangster who predicted his own death part of Odd Squad’s outreach to youth By Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun Click here to WATCH THE VIDEO Four months before Gurmit Singh Dhak was gunned down outside Metrotown in October 2010, he predicted his own death in a chilling interview with Vancouver’s Odd Squad. “Every day I’ve got to look over my shoulder,” Dhak told police officers Doug Spencer and Toby Hinton, who work with the non-profit educational group. “I have got to worry — if I jump out of my car am I going to get shot? Or I could be walking in the mall and walking out and get shot. I don’t know.” He also told them he regretted getting involved in gangs and the grief that it had caused him and his family. “If I could turn back time, I would never join a gang. I would have just finished off my high school, got a better job, anything else. Anything is better than joining a gang. It is useless. You are going to get killed,” he said. “I want to get out. It is too late now to get out. I have too many enemies. “ […]
BY TERRY BELL, THE PROVINCE Christine Nesbitt came to Vancouver 28 months ago and left town with a 2010 Olympic speedskating gold medal hanging around her neck. On Wednesday Nesbitt is returning to Vancouver with some of her Calgary-based teammates for a close-up look at the city’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The visit is part of a program run by the Odd Squad Production Society, a non-profit group established in 1997 by a group of retired and current Vancouver police officers. Its goal is to “design programs that honour and motivate youth, encourage them to set positive goals, lay their own path and stay On Track by keeping drug-free for a long and healthy life.” For several years Odd Squad has been offering the program to a number of junior hockey teams but this will be the first involvement by Olympic athletes. Chris Graham, a founding member and Director of Peer-to-Peer programs, is ecstatic. “One of the things that’s been on our mind for a long time is that there’s a lot of girls involved in gang activity and drug trafficking and poor relationships,” Graham, a retired Vancouver policeman, said Tuesday. “We’re not able to deal […]
Stephanie Levitz OTTAWA – Toronto police called the shooter who opened fire in a downtown mall Saturday “one idiot with a gun.” But some gang experts argue public shootings like the one at the Eaton Centre that left one man dead and several other people wounded are part of an effort by gang leaders to make themselves look like anything but idiots. Gangs are increasingly taking their fights public to gain fame and notoriety, said Const. Doug Spencer, a Vancouver transit police officer who works with the city’s Odd Squad Productions Society on crime prevention. Public shootings are designed to send a message, Spencer said. “They say if they’ll do it there, they’ll do it anywhere, you don’t want to mess with those guys, they’re crazy, and that’s the reputation they want.” Spencer said Vancouver-area police began noticing a change in gang activity about three or four years ago when fights that used to be waged in back alleys suddenly burst onto public streets. In 2007, six people were killed at a Surrey, B.C., apartment. Four had criminal connections, but two were innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since then, B.C. police have been called to shootings […]
Posted by Speed Skating Canada CALGARY – Canadian team national team and Olympic athletes Jan Hudec, Canada’s leading downhill skier, and speed skaters Jamie Gregg, Cindy Klassen, Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler will team-up with Vancouver’s Odd Squad Productions Society on Wednesday, June 6 for a presentation and learning experience, and attend the 2012 Odd Squad Gala Fundraiser on Thursday, June 7. The five athletes will join 10 Calgary-area business executives at the Odd Squad’s Vancouver office for a presentation on Wednesday. They will then be divided into groups of five for a two-hour experience of Vancouver’s downtown east district. On Thursday, the athletes will attend the 15th annual Odd Squad Gala Fundraiser at the Vancouver Convention Centre (see event news release). Since 1997, the Odd Squad has been dedicated to educating the public of the devastating effects that high-risk behavior has on members of our community. Their peer-to-peer workshops have included a Hockey Mentor Program with several Western Hockey League teams. Visit their website for additional information on their programs – click here.
Posted in Question – Serving Whistler & Pemberton – Original Link Click Here Dear Editor, On May 4, the Interact Club of Pemberton (the youth branch of Rotary) hosted the Odd Squad at Pemberton Secondary School for both Pemberton and Mount Currie schools. The presentations were a stark reminder of the deep and painful impact substance abuse can have on individuals, families and communities. Bringing the Odd Squad to Pemberton was an Interact initiative and they worked hard to make it happen. On behalf of the Winds of Change steering committee, I would like to acknowledge the Pemberton Interact Club for taking a leadership role in increasing the awareness of addictions among their peers. Your efforts remind us all that leadership to improve community health and wellbeing can come from many different places. Thank you! Sheldon Tetreault Chair, Winds of Change Steering Committee PEMBERTON
On the cover this week … Odd Squad Productions Society celebrates 15 years. MICHELLE DODEK On Thursday, June 7, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Odd Squad Productions Society will bring together nearly 1,000 attendees to celebrate 15 years of working to keep youth safe and drug free. Founded in 1997 by a group of seven officers working for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), the organization has a mission of “empowering youth to make positive life choices about drug use and criminal behavior through documentaries and education.” The seven officers who first came together all those years ago felt that they needed to do something to try to prevent and curtail the cycle of substance abuse and tragedy they saw every day in their work on DTES streets. With VPD statistics indicating that 60 percent of illicit drug users were between 15 to 24 years of age, these seven officers decided to focus their efforts on proactively protecting youth. They called their group the Odd Squad. The Odd Squad’s first step was to take footage of what they saw on the streets of the DTES, footage they turned into a documentary called Through a Blue Lens, […]
For Immediate Release (Vancouver, BC) –Vancouver’s Odd Squad Productions Society (OSP) celebrates a memorable 15th milestone of empowering youth though film documentaries and educational programs. The prestigious 2012 Odd Squad Gala Fundraiser is taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Thursday, June 7th starting at 5:00 pm. Presented by CIBC Wood Gundy At Bentall, and supported by an astounding 50 corporate sponsors, the evening begins with a cocktail reception and Mayor Gregor Robertson in attendance. Other highlights include speeches by select youth, a unique Silent Auction, a formal sit-down dinner, a Live Auction with celebrated auctioneer Howard Blank and special guest Steven Seagal. Vancouver’s Odds, with Craig Northy as musical director, will serve as the house band. 100% of the proceeds will be put towards creating more documentaries and developing awareness campaigns for youth about the dangers of drug use and criminal behaviour. Undoubtedly, the OSP is passionate about their work. This grassroots initiative started with a few Vancouver Police Officers who […]