When Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley decided to go undercover, and by so doing, he discovered the good in people.
Horsley chose to go undercover in Downtown Eastside Vancouver following two robberies. Both of these took place at knifepoint, and the victims were in wheelchairs. As such, Horsley’s undercover persona was a man with both cognitive and mobility disabilities.
Staff Sgt. Horsley was completely shocked by what he discovered, and so was the rest of his police team.
To set up the situation, according to Horsley:
“I deployed in a motorized wheelchair, and I portrayed a paralyzed person who had a brain injury.”
Instead of finding the robbers, he found out just how friendly Vancouver residents are.
Horsley was quickly accepted by the community. He talked with people facing mobility disabilities, such as the man at 0:36. During the conversations, Horsley learned more about these people and listened to their stories.
One that stuck out to Horsley is the young man at 0:42. This man was visiting Vancouver from Quebec and asked Horsley if he could pray for him.
“His prayers were adamant for my healing.”
At one point, Horsley thought another young man may take his camera.
Instead, the man at 0:58 went out of his way to help. He noticed some money hanging out from the waist pouch on the wheelchair, so he closed the pouch for Horsley. This man actually had connections with the disabled community, as he cares for his mother who is wheelchair-bound.
One common point among the interactions Horsley had with others was that he always told them he was unable to count.
“When we were exchanging food or different things, they would take change from my hand. Not once did anybody short change me. In fact, at the end of the five deployments in this project, I was ahead by $24.75.”
In the video posted online by the Vancouver Police Department, Horsley sounds emotionally touched when describing how not a single person took advantage of his supposed inability to count. That was even true when talking to someone late at night, alone, and in a bar district.
As Horsley put it:
“The generosity, the caring, was inspiring.”
Toward the end of the video, Staff Sgt. Horsley tells us just how much he got out of the project.
Going undercover as a 4-foot-7-inch person who was vulnerable and in a wheelchair, he got to experience all “the caring and compassion” locals and visitors alike had to give. He called it “inspiring.”
The video ends with Horsley’s heartfelt words. They include a warning message to those who would turn vulnerable people into victims. He lets those would-be criminals know that:
“The police are watching, but more importantly, the people of the Downtown Eastside are watching. They care and they take care of their vulnerable people.”
We could all hope to live in a community as compassionate as those in this area of Vancouver.
These results were particularly inspiring given the number of crimes that occur in Downtown Eastside.
According to CBC News Canada, at the time of Horsley’s undercover investigation, over half the crimes took place in this particular area. That part of downtown is known for prostitution, street drugs, crime, and a large homeless population.
Even with all those problems, not a single person tried to harm Horsley or even showed him any ill will. Considering Horsley interacted with over 300 contacts over the course of the five days, according to CTV News, that is truly astounding.
Despite Horsley’s efforts, the crimes did continue.
Within just a few weeks after going undercover, two more robberies of victims in wheelchairs took place in Vancouver, although neither of them was in Downtown Eastside.
Clearly, there is still work to be done, but we are heading in the right direction.
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