Odds and Ends


THE BEAT Season 2 Premiere this Sunday!

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 […]


Eastside Stories: Diary of a Vancouver Beat Cop – ‘She made her decision, and it was the wrong one’

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. […]


Odd Squad out to make a difference

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 […]


Odd Squad Productions celebrates 15th anniversary in style

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 […]


Hudec ‘humbled’ by tour of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

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 […]


ODD SQUAD Experience by Brittany Schussler

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 […]


Gurmit Singh Dhak: Pitfalls of street life brought into sharp focus (with video)

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. “ […]


Quest for fame move gang wars from back alleys into the open

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 […]


National speed skating and alpine skiing athletes team-up with Vancouver’s Odd Squad

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.


Recognizing youth leadership

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


Actively empowering youth

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, […]


Members of Jewish Community Working Diligently At Keeping Kids Safe and Drug Free

Original Newsletter – Click Here Odd Squad Productions Society Celebrates 15 years with a Gala Fundraiser Vancouver’s Odd Squad Productions Society (OSP) is proud to announce the celebration of its 15th anniversary this year. Odd Squad Productions Society (OSP) is an independent, non-profit organization that was founded by volunteer members of the Vancouver Police Department in 1997. Having developed a unique approach to community policing, crime prevention and public education, Odd Squad generates funding through donations and grants with the mission of “empowering youth to make positive life choices about drug use and criminal behaviour through documentaries and education”. A prestigious Gala Fundraiser will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Thursday, June 7th at 5:00 pm . Under the leadership of Gerry Zipursky, the C.O.O. of Odd Squad, a number of prominent members of our community have rallied around the cause. Serving on the Board of Directors is Shirley Barnett, Howard Blank, Bob Golden and Mark James, with Dani Elias as Director, Web Development and new Media. There are, as well, many Jewish corporate Sponsors for this Annual fundraiser. With disturbing statistics, such as “60% of illicit drug users are between 15 to 24 years old”, there is […]


…but instead…

Posted on May 1, 2012 by Steve The following is a contribution by fellow Beat Enforcement Team member Tyler Urquhart, inspired by some of the people he’s met along Hastings Street. He says it’s “kind of a poem.” A Grandfather, Bouncing grandchildren on his knees. Burgers, ribs, the family barbecue, Stories of ‘how things used to be’, chasing girls, a classic car, old friend, Wisdom, command, always an unspoken respect for the Patriarch. … but instead … An old, worn-out man long past his due date. An addict, a recluse, full of delusion, full of disease. Erupting in anger and compulsive put-downs. Spare change? Spare change? Missing pieces…missing places… farther from human. Alone. Cursed. A young Mother, A shy toddler, spying, hooked on her leg. Coffee with old girlfriends. Other little ones mingle. She checks the time on her Iphone, Loving husband still at work, Family time soon, with talk of another little one on the way. … but instead … Soaked to the bone, crouched on wet cement in a nasty alleyway. Poison in her bra. Rock? Rock? Up? Down? There are no children back here. Waiting for her turn to fix. ‘Where’s my money bitch?’ The dealers’ had enough … she’s short again. […]


Police warn killing in Mexico may reignite B.C. gang strife

Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader Published: April 30, 2012 11:00 AM Police are warning more retaliatory gang violence could break out here after the murder of a B.C. organized crime figure in Mexico. Thomas Gisby was shot point-blank Saturday in a Starbucks in Nuevo Vallarta by two gunmen who then fled. He had previously been the target of a Jan. 16 bombing in Whistler, where Gisby and another man camped in an RV escaped with minor injuries. RCMP quickly issued a warning that Gisby’s slaying could trigger revenge attacks or violence between his gangland allies and enemies in B.C. “We expect this would result in heightened tension between various organized crime groups in the Lower Mainland and, potentially, the province,” RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound said. Gisby is said by police to have been a “high-ranking organized crime figure” who headed up his own B.C. gang – which they referred to as the Gisby Crime Group – but also had links to other B.C. groups involved in violent attacks in recent years. “The criminal activity in which he was engaged extended across Canada and internationally,” Pound said. There are reports the middle-aged Gisby may have had ties to Metro Vancouver’s Dhak and […]


Legalized Drugs: Dumber Than You May Think

Author | John P. Walters Even smart people make mistakes​—​sometimes surprisingly large ones. A current example is drug legalization, which way too many smart people consider a good idea. They offer three bad arguments. First, they contend, “the drug war has failed”​—​despite years of effort we have been unable to reduce the drug problem. Actually, as imperfect as surveys may be, they present overwhelming evidence that the drug problem is growing smaller and has fallen in response to known, effective measures. Americans use illegal drugs at substantially lower rates than when systematic measurement began in 1979​—​down almost 40 percent. Marijuana use is down by almost half since its peak in the late 1970s, and cocaine use is down by 80 percent since its peak in the mid-1980s. Serious challenges with crack, meth, and prescription drug abuse have not changed the broad overall trend: Drug use has declined for the last 40 years, as has drug crime. The decades of decline coincide with tougher laws, popular disapproval of drug use, and powerful demand reduction measures such as drug treatment in the criminal justice system and drug testing. The drop also tracks successful attacks on supply​—​as in the reduction of cocaine production in Colombia and the […]


Odd Squad’s On Track – Press Release

For Immediate Release            (Vancouver, BC) – Empowering youth to become role models for their peers and mentors for the younger generations to come- the motto for the Odd Squad Productions Society’s (OSP) annual peer mentoring workshop. On Saturday, April 28, 2012, forty Grade 10 students nominated across the Lower Mainland will engage in this one-day interactive workshop with volunteer officers from the Vancouver Police Department and Odd Squad Productions Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to prevention education for youth. An exceptional learning program, ON TRACK exposes participants to the harsh realities of drug use, addiction, and criminal lifestyle through interactions with police officers and street-entrenched people. Youth walk away educated with lifelong lessons that enable them to mentor their peers through school presentations about the realities they have learned. Agenda Saturday, April 28th 2012 from 10 AM – 10 PM: Interactive workshop at the new VPD Tactical Training Centre in downtown Vancouver Welcome by VPD Chief Jim Chu Morning presentations dedicated to gang and drug awareness by expert squad members Afternoon interaction with emergency response (ERT), dog squad training, and Marine Squad boat rides Late afternoon participation in a VPD Judo Club class Evening walk-about escorted by beat […]


Happy to be proven wrong

Posted by Eastside Stories: Diary of a Vancouver Beat Cop “Tap, Tap, Tap.” I jolted up, and nearly spilled a half cup of lukewarm Tim Horton’s double-double into my lap. They train you at the police academy to always be alert when you’re on the street. They call it keeping your head on a swivel. If your head’s on a swivel, you’re always on the look-out for the guy on the corner doing a quick drug deal. You’ve always got an eye out for the guy trying door handles, or for the guy up the street who just did the one-eighty because he has a warrant. Most importantly, if your head’s on a swivel, you’re always looking out for dangerous situations, like someone who may want to sneak up from behind and hurt you. Or, in this case, for a 95-pound waif tapping your patrol car window with the point of her umbrella. “What happened?” she asked, pointing her umbrella toward the ribbon of yellow police tape strung up across the entrance to the south lane of the 1oo East Hastings. I’d been parked there for the past hour and a half, making sure nobody got past the tape. It’s a […]


The Odd Squad comes to town

Non-profit group started by the Vancouver police visits schools to talk drugs and gangs by Katherine Hudson Northern News Services Students at Samuel Hearne Secondary School might not have thought there were any similarities between their small community of 3,400 and Vancouver’s Downtown East Side of 18,000 people, but after hearing from Odd Squad Productions members who visited their school last week, they figured the two places are a bit more alike than they realized. The non-profit group was started in 1997 by seven officers of the Vancouver Police Department and its mandate is to educate the public about crime prevention and community policing. In Inuvik, it made the message clear to a gym full of youth that in the end, there are only two choices, right and wrong. Const. Brian Hobbs said he went for a ride-along with the Inuvik RCMP detachment and saw some familiar sights. “They have the same problems here. They showed me where the crack houses are, they showed me where the bootleggers are, talked to me about the drugs and the alcohol that’s smuggled in, talked about the violence that goes on. I saw the violence that goes on in domestic situations. You guys […]


A Special Adventure with the Odd Squad (Guest Post)

A little while back, a few of our McMath students had an opportunity to explore a part Vancouver rarely seen by most.  Though a perhaps a little unsettling for some, our students were in good company.  Having an opportunity to explore the Downtown Eastside along side our school Liaison Officer as well as VPD Officer and Odd Squad Member, Brian Hobbes (a former McMath student), the group had a first hand experience that they will never forget. Vanessa Lee, grade twelve student, shares her experience below: On Mar. 8th, 2012, I along with 6 other McMath students had the rare opportunity to travel with the Odd Squad Policing Program to learn and experience what life is like living in Vancouver’s iconic Downtown East Side. From the very start of the 8 hour field trip, each student had a different thought on what the night would present them with. When we arrived at the Odd Squad Headquarters, we were shown a video, both about the struggles of drug users, but also those with success stories. Next, we viewed a 90 slide Powerpoint presentation outlining the numerous substances, drugs and weapons found and confiscated by the Vancouver Police everyday along the streets […]


The Perils of Searching

Police work is dangerous business, but sometimes the most dangerous situations come not when we’re chasing bad guys, but after they’ve already been caught. And in the Downtown Eastside, where infectious diseases like HIV and HEP C are epidemic, police officers must always be on high alert for dirty needles, broken crack pipes and anything else that could cause us harm. I snapped this picture earlier this week in Chinatown after I found a man in a lane injecting morphine. Turns out he had a warrant, and before sending him to jail my partner and I had to search all of his belongings. Among dozens of used and unused needles, he had knives, crack pipes and other drug paraphernelia. It took a good 15 minutes to dump the stuff on the hood of our car and sort through it, all the while making sure we didn’t get poked or scratched. The picture below is of the purse belonging to a woman we caught smoking crack earlier tonight on the sidewalk near Hastings and Columbia Streets. It was literally overflowing with needles, crack pipes and other paraphernalia. The orange packages are unused needles, which are handed out en masse throughout the […]


FIXING FOR INSPIRATION: “TEARS FOR APRIL”

“On Track celebrates youth making healthy lifestyle choices, by empowering them with the information and experience necessary to further their positive leadership roles within their community.” – Odd Squad Productions Last night I watched attended the exclusive screening of “Tears for April,” at SFU, documentary directed and produced by Odd Squad Productions Society. This film goes “Beyond the Blue Lens” and chronicles the short, tragic life of April Lynne Reoch as told by the beat cops team, retired Sgt.Al Aresanult, Sgt. Toby Hinton, and Sgt. Mark Steinkampf. A fresh faced 17 year old April warned about the life on the streets on the DTES. April, who had a child at a very young age and lost her mother when she was very young started experimenting with drugs early on. “I never thought it would lead to me being an addict,” April mentions in the film, and repeatedly speaks of how she wants to get clean for her young son, for her father and Danny (her significant other) and to see what is out there for her to learn, to be and to discover. The hard facts are that drugs and addiction is a demonist cycle that many fall victim to. This film destroys […]