column was published in the
May 19, 1999)
won’t help missing women
By Leo Knight
has been made in the past few weeks of the apparent
disappearance of 21 women from the Downtown Eastside.
Warren, the bombastic CKNW talk show host, did a 10-segment
analysis of the situation over the last two weeks.
memorial march was held last week at Crab Park on the
waterfront. A bit premature perhaps, inasmuch as no one really
knows if they are in fact dead. The Vancouver police have been
taking it on the chin from those who claim they don't care about
the women because they are prostitutes and drug addicts.
are claiming there is a serial killer at work and trying to whip
up hysteria among the masses.
it possible a latter day Jack the Ripper is at work on our
meanest streets? Certainly, it is possible. Whether it is likely
is another question altogether.
problem is there is no real evidence to suggest the women have
been killed. There are no bodies.
the cases in question, the oldest dates back to 1988 and
involves a woman from White Rock. The rest were last seen
between 1995 and this year.
of the lifestyle these women led, it's very difficult for the
police to determine what has happened. They are all drug addicts
who sell their bodies for money to feed their habits. They live
in rooming houses, flea-bag hotels or, in some cases, nowhere at
often it is weeks or months before the police are advised they
haven't been seen for a while. From a police perspective, where
do you start to investigate?
police have a three-man Missing Person investigative section
along with a civilian assistant. To get an idea of how busy they
are, let's look at the numbers for 1997, the last year the stats
are readily available.
1997, the Vancouver Police Department investigated 1,940 missing
juveniles and 975 reported missing adults. To date only four
cases remain unresolved. Of the four, three are missing
1998 there is only one outstanding case and that is an adult
male. There are three new missing prostitute cases in 1999.
most of these cases involve runaway kids or adults who have
taken off after a family fight. Most resolve themselves in a
short period of time.
police say they can usually tell if a reported missing person
will turn up because of the circumstances leading up to the
disappearance. These cases don't usually get much attention from
the police. Accordingly, the reports of the missing prostitutes
routinely get more attention than the average missing person
because of the higher likelihood of foul play.
say the police care less for these women than if there were 20
missing women from Point Grey is simply untrue.
the fact these women are addicts and living in the most
degrading of circumstances, there is no well-defined starting
point for the police to begin their investigation. Without
evidence, they rely on talking to other street people for
information, not the most reliable of information sources at the
best of times.
would seem to be the crux of the problem. All the police have to
go on is the information from the families indicating they
haven't heard from the women for a period of time.
no question there are predators on the streets. The missing
women placed themselves in positions where they are the most
no doubt we should care about what may have happened to the
women. There's no question the police should be committing their
resources to resolving these cases.
whipping up public hysteria is not the answer.