VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Police inaction merits review
March 19, 2002
Even as a joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force continues to probe the disappearance of at least 50 prostitutes since 1983 from the mean Downtown Eastside that has earned a reputation as the Killing Fields, it's evident that police conduct itself in this case warrants a public inquiry.
Accusations by relatives that they told police as far back as 1998 about the connection of the missing women to the Port Coquitlam pig farm that is now the focus of an intensive forensic search are being supported by at least two cops, who say the departments were reluctant to act on the complaints.
A weekend CTV report said one of the officers was a Mountie who investigated a violent incident at the suburban hog farm involving a prostitute. His request to put the farm under surveillance was turned down.
Former Vancouver police inspector-detective Kim Rossmo, another officer quoted in the TV report, also said surveillance was rejected because it was too costly and would tie up too many officers.
"Obviously, one possible scenario was that the bodies could have been put through a meat grinder .... (or) bodies could have been buried somewhere over the 10 acres associated with the farm," Rossmo suggested.
While Rebecca Guno is the first sex trade worker from Downtown Eastside whose 1983 disappearance is linked to this case, another 12 women have gone missing since relatives and street persons began alleging connections to the hog farm three years ago.
Rossmo's calls for a public inquiry are backed by former colleague Doug MacKay-Dunn, who was involved in the early investigation and agrees it needed more resources. MacKay-Dunn had sought help from Rossmo, whose "geographic profiling" approach to crime solving were earning kudos among police forces elsewhere but raising hackles in Vancouver.
"There was a tight budget and a power struggle going on within the police department," MacKay-Dunn said. "There was also a lack of confidence in Rossmo's methodology."
So, while police bickered among themselves within the municipal force and with the RCMP, women continued to go missing.
That they were among our society's most marginalized citizens -- most so desperately addicted to drugs that they couldn't and wouldn't see anything beyond finding money for the next fix -- is what allowed police the "luxury" of procrastination and jurisdictional squabbles.
The disappearance of a couple of women, let alone 50, from Vancouver's ritzy Point Grey would have had the RCMP and Vancouver police rushing to dedicate all available resources, including Rossmo's profiling skills, to track down a suspected serial killer.
When the missing are women from the Low Track beat, where street counsellors estimate the annual 500 to 800 "bad date" reports they get from hookers battered and bloodied by their sick johns are a minuscule portion of the violence they endure, there's less pressure on police to get quick results.
That 50 human beings can simply disappear without a trace over two decades, nearly a quarter of them in the past three years since relatives began complaining about the very farm that is now the subject of a massive police hunt, should shock us more than it has.
It should shock us into demanding to find out why it took police in and around Vancouver so long to do their job.
© Copyright 2002 Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Updated: August 21, 2016