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    POLICE PULL PLUG ON PUBLIC PAY PHONES

    Vancouver police are pulling out most of the pay phones in the
    Downtown Eastside in an effort to stamp out the dial-a-dope trade.

    Police say drug users call their dealers on the phones.

    But Kim Kerr, executive director of the Downtown Eastside Residents
    Association, said pay phones are necessary in the community.

    "They're certainly also used by law-abiding citizens who are, as often
    as not, calling for help from the police," he said.

    About 30 pay phones have been removed from city property in the area,
    including 10 in the past three years, said Terry Novak of Canada
    Payphone Corp.

    The company owns a network of pay phones across the country.

    He said Vancouver police have asked store owners along Commercial
    Drive to get rid of their pay phones.

    Novak said pulling out pay phones just displaces the drug
    business.

    "Drug dealers drive nice cars and have cellphones," he said. "The guys
    phoning [out] need a hit to make it through the day."

    Pay phones in the Downtown Eastside are the least vandalized in the
    Lower Mainland.

    "The least-damaged phones we have are in the low-income areas," he
    said.

    "You go into a low-income area, beat the crap out of a phone, and
    don't see if you've got five or six guys on your back, because they
    want to make a phone call."

    Const. Sarah Bloor said the pay phones are "a drug-operation tool" and
    head-office for drug dealers.

    "Having a pay phone down there only attracts a more open drug
    trade."

    Dundas Street now has no street pay phones because police say they led
    to trafficking and robberies.

    "To stop that flow of drug trafficking, we simply asked if the phones
    could be removed," she said.

    The only pay phone in the Dundas area is at the Princeton Hotel, where
    the owner-manager, who didn't want his name used, said he's fed up
    with people asking to use it.

    There are about six pay phones left in the Downtown Eastside, along
    Hastings.

    Surrey, Burnaby and New Westminster have removed pay phones over the
    past few years to battle drug trafficking on the streets.

    In Surrey, the pay phones were removed primarily from
    Whalley.

    "The user is still going to get their drugs somehow,
    but it removes that element of street-level drug trafficking that
    degrades a certain area," said Surrey RCMP Const. Tim Shields.

    Const. Phil Reid of Burnaby RCMP said removing pay phones is a more
    efficient way to deal with drug dealers than monitoring pay phone records.

    "Because there are a lot of drug dealers, it just wouldn't be cost
    effective for us to do that," he said.

    In New Westminster, about six phones over the past three years have
    been removed.

    "These phones were typically in places that were a problem with
    illegal activities so they were removed," said city official Keith
    Coueffin.

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