Out of Sight: Policing Poverty in Victoria, Coast and Straits Salish Territories

Cuts to health services and income supports for people living in poverty, including those with disabilities involving mental health and illicit drug use, have contributed to a situation where police now act as de facto “first responders” to health-related issues on city streets. The costs of policing poverty are high, and are not limited to the financial costs of spending more on approaches that do not work.

This study set out to explore the social costs of policing poverty by documenting the experiences and perspectives of members of the Victoria street community with regards to policing in Victoria, BC.  Research was guided by an advisory committee and used a peer research methodology where peer interviewers, or individuals who hold relevant lived experiences of poverty, conducted interviews with over 100 members of the Victoria street community.

The experiences and perspectives gleaned through these interviews point to the harmful effects of policing on the physical and mental well-being of members of the Victoria street community, a majority of whom use illicit drugs, live with disabilities, and/or suffer from chronic illnesses. These findings highlight the need for yet another revisiting of the use of policing to regulate poverty, as an approach that encourages a disproportionate and unjustified interference with the daily lives of the most marginalized members of our communities, and misuses resources to criminalize rather than alleviate poverty.

The Research