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Agencies begin registry for street women 

Ian Bailey, Canadian Press

The Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, April 6, 1999
.

Amid fears a serial killer is stalking the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, two agencies dealing with prostitutes recently launched personal information registries with the blessing of the police.

Prostitutes in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood are being invited to record personal details on registries that would give police clues if the women are kidnapped or killed.

The move comes amid fears a serial killer is stalking the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.  Twenty-one so-called street-involved women have disappeared since 1995, 11 of them in the last year alone.   Only one has been found alive.

Two agencies dealing with prostitutes recently launched the voluntary registries--an idea blessed by the police.

The Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society and a drop-in centre called Grandma's House say they may join their lists into one registry, which would be unprecedented in Canada.

Jamie Lee Hamilton of Grandma's House said the drop-in also plans to give prostitutes out-of-service cell phones that, while useless for normal calls, are still connected to 911 emergency service.

DEYAS representative Judy McGuire says the registry was born of years of concern about violence against prostitutes.

But it has been focused by the recent disappearances, as well as reports that a man charged in the beating of one prostitute planned to turn another into a sex slave and eventually kill her.

"As much as anything, that may have been what jogged everybody into action to do something about it," says McGuire.

Vancouver police have no evidence a serial killer is at work, but leaders in the community are not as easily dissuaded.

"There's no doubt in any of our minds down here that something like that has happened--a john has come along and picked them up and killed them and hidden them somewhere," says Frank Gilbert, a spokesman for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

Had the women just died, their bodies would have been found on the street or in the hotels where they lived, he says.

Despite police doubts about a serial killer, officers are backing the registries.
     The head of Vancouver's vice squad, who proposed the idea to McGuire, say the results will be helpful.

"It will probably be easier for the girls to share information with groups such as DEYAS or Grandma's Place," said Sergeant Don Smith.

"They, in turn, will turn that information over to police in a quicker fashion."

The vice squad already has a similar--though limited--program.  Officers informally request personal information of sex-trade workers and take photos.

At DEYAS, information forms for Sex Trade Workers Identification Project allow prostitutes to limit information they want shared by police.

Women are also being asked to occasionally report into DEYAS using a personal code to say they are okay.  Silence would prompt a report to police.

"There's no easy way to know where (sex-trade workers) would be or who they are in contact with on a regular basis," says McGuire.

"This is an attempt to try and give the women somewhere they can register that information."

The mother of one woman who vanished isn't certain a registry would have helped her daughter.

Angela Jardine, 27, went missing last November.  She was last seen at a rally in a Downtown Eastside park.

In 1990, Jardine ran away from home in the Interior community of Castelgar, Jardine, who was mentally challenged, eventually became a prostitute.  She resisted her parent's efforts to urge her to come home.

"(Angela's) intellect is only about 11.  She probably would need help filling out a form," said Deborah Jardine.

"Someone would have to assist her, but I think it's a good idea."

Deborah Jardine thinks her daughter has fallen prey to "foul play," because she would otherwise have called some member of her family, or her caseworker.

Police have suggested Angela has been seen roaming the neighbourhood.

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Updated: August 21, 2016