Cops, Chi­nese part­ner in pa­trols

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­

More than 20 years ago, the Van­cou­ver Po­lice De­part­ment was de­ter­mined to in­crease its ac­ces­si­bil­ity and ac­cep­tance in the Chi­nese com­mu­nity while pro­vid­ing more ef­fec­tive ser­vices. By em­brac­ing the con­cept of com­mu­nity polic­ing, the de­part­ment de­vel­oped an ac­tive part­ner­ship be­tween the po­lice and res­i­dents that re­sulted in the es­tab­lish­ment of the Van­cou­ver Chi­nese Com­mu­nity Polic­ing Cen­tre (VCCPC).

The VCCPC is not a satel­lite po­lice sta­tion; in­stead the cen­ter is op­er­ated, staffed and gov­erned by mem­bers of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

“Ini­tially the cen­ter’s main pur­pose was to over­come the lan­guage bar­rier that ex­isted be­tween the com­mu­nity and the po­lice de­part­ment,” said Karen Lowe, the cen­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor. “Now we do more than of­fer trans­la­tion in Can­tonese and Man­darin. We pro­vide crime pre­ven­tion in­for­ma­tion, as­sist vic­tims in re­port­ing crimes and help pre­pare them for a court ap­pear­ance.”

The cen­ter was founded in 1992 by the Chi­nese Benev­o­lent As­so­ci­a­tion, the Chi­nese Cul­tural Cen­tre, SUC­CESS (a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion for im­mi­grants), the Van­cou­ver Chinatown Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion and the Chi­nese Freema­sons. The VCCPC is staffed by six full-time em­ploy­ees with more than 50 vol­un­teers in de­vis­ing pro­grams and ser­vices that are com­mu­nity based. The C$250,000 ($232,800) yearly bud­get in­cludes fund­ing from the city, provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments along with grants

We are like a part­ner­ship and an outreach to the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and not just in Chinatown. We can as­sist in trans­la­tion not only when the com­mu­nity needs to talk to the de­part­ment, but also when the de­part­ment needs to talk with the com­mu­nity,” WES FUNG 29-YEAR VET­ERAN OF THE VAN­COU­VER PO­LICE FORCE

and do­na­tions.

Con­sta­ble Wes Fung, a 29-year-old vet­eran of the Van­cou­ver po­lice force, is the cen­ter’s li­ai­son of­fi­cer with the po­lice de­part­ment. He has been a wit­ness to change in his ca­reer.

“I was Chi­nese cop num­ber six when I joined the de­part­ment,” he said. “Now there are over 90 Chi­nese po­lice of­fi­cers. More so than be­fore the Van­cou­ver Po­lice De­part­ment rec­og­nized the di­ver­sity in the com­mu­nity and now it is re­flected in the ranks of the de­part­ment.”

Fung said the most im­por­tant role the cen­ter serves is as a vis­i­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tion link be­tween the de­part­ment and the com­mu­nity.

“We are like a part­ner­ship and an outreach to the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and not just in Chinatown. We can as­sist in trans­la­tion not only when the com­mu­nity needs to talk to the de­part­ment, but also when the de­part­ment needs to talk with the com­mu­nity,” Fung said.

Fung was born and raised in Canada so his Can­tonese skills are some­what lim­ited. This is where the vol­un­teers come into play, us­ing their lan­guage skills to guide cit­i­zens and po­lice of­fi­cers through the col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion for use in in­ves­ti­ga­tions and court pro­ceed­ings.

Com­mu­nity pol i c i ng de­pends heav­ily on trust and Fung un­der­stands the role he and the cen­ter have played in es­tab­lish­ing that trust in the com­mu­nity.

“That’s a big part of my job — to build and main­tain trust in a com­mu­nity where some­times the po­lice aren’t trusted or liked very much.”

In 2012 and 2013, mem­bers of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in Van­cou­ver were tar­geted as part of the “bless­ing scam”. Prey­ing on elderly Chi­nese women, vic­tims were told that an evil spirit would harm them or their fam­ily mem­bers if they did not have their money and valu­ables blessed by the scam­mers. Dur­ing the bless­ing, the scam­mers would switch the money and valu­ables with a bag of worth­less items. The vic­tim would was told not to tell any­one or open the bag.

Even­tu­ally po­lice ar­rested four Chi­nese na­tion­als who were de­ported. Ap­par­ently they were part of an in­ter­na­tional ring as Van­cou­ver po­lice worked with law en­force­ment in other ar­eas of Canada and the US on sim­i­lar in­ci­dents.

“The cen­ter helped to make a video that in­formed cit­i­zens of this ac­tiv­ity, and I think it prob­a­bly helped to pre­vent more in­ci­dents,” said Fung. “The cen­ter not only warned cit­i­zens, but they helped us gather in­for­ma­tion and even re­turn stolen jew­elry and other items to some of the vic­tims.”

De­spite its idyl­lic set­ting, Van­cou­ver is plagued by prob­lems that bedevil most large cities — drugs and gangs. “The Chi­nese com­mu­nity is much like a river,” Fung said. “The top ap­pears smooth and tran­quil. But un­der­neath there are cur­rents of un­rest.’’

“Just about ev­ery eth­nic com­mu­nity has a prob­lem with ei­ther drugs or gangs,” he said. “Vic­tims have been in­tim­i­dated in many cases and are afraid to come for­ward. We are work­ing with the cen­ter and I think we are mak­ing some progress on chang­ing this.”

Sgt. Kevin Bernardin said the po­lice de­part­ment is very sup­port­ive of the VCCPC and the other com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ters.

“Be­cause the cen­ters are not un­der di­rect po­lice con­trol, I think it makes them a more valu­able as­set for the de­part­ment and the com­mu­nity,” he said. “We like the fact that the cen­ter is not a po­lice sta­tion. We think this makes mem­bers of the com­mu­nity more com­fort­able.”

Bernardin said the de­part­ment is es­pe­cially grate­ful for the vol­un­teers. “They pro­vide a real ser­vice to the com­mu­nity. They help us in crime pre­ven­tion and vic­tim ser­vices be­yond trans­la­tion as­sis­tance. We be­lieve that the mes­sage is much more likely to con­nect if it comes from a neigh­bor rather than just a po­lice of­fi­cer.”

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