Substance-related contacts with the Vancouver Police Department

For this 2009/2010 project, a methodology was developed for Vancouver Police officers to collect information on apparent substance use, violence and mental health issues during the course of their duties. For a complete summary of this project, download Policing Persons under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol in Vancouver, British Columbia (pdf, 1,444kb).

If an officer judged an incident involved substance use, he or she would fill out a brief questionnaire. Data was collected from four policing districts, as well as the Beat Enforcement Team (BET) on the Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver policing areas

The majority of substance-related cards were from District Two, including the BET. In contrast, very few cards were collected in District Four.

A graph of data collected by district

While there were some problems with recording the total number of incidents in every shift, it was conservatively estimated that 33% of all police incidents involved substance use, with alcohol being the main substance involved, followed closely by crack cocaine.

Type of substance in substance-related police contacts by district

Alcohol was significantly more likely to be associated with violent incidents compared with other substance use.

A graph of the relationship between substance type and violence in Vancouver.

Of all the districts, the Beat Enforcement Team in the Downtown Eastside recorded the lowest proportion of alcohol-related contacts and the highest proportion of drug-related contacts.

A chart of alcohol-related police contacts by Vancouver district
A graph of drug-related police contacts in Vancouver by district

There was evidence of a substantial increase in substance related incidents on a Welfare Wednesday.

A graph of proportion of substance-related contacts by welfare period and day of week

Findings suggest that police officers may benefit from specialized training as substance-related contacts form such a large part of their work.

For a complete summary of this project, download Policing Persons under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol in Vancouver, British Columbia (pdf, 1,444kb).

Note: This data is from the Vancouver Police Department component of the BC Alcohol and Other Drug Monitoring Project, which aims to shed light on the number of incidents police respond to in which alcohol and other drugs are a factor. Police data can be an important indicator of the impact of substance use on communities as well as on service provision by law enforcement agencies.