Saturday, September 12, 1998

Robert Matas
British Columbia Bureau, Vancouver

p. A1.

Honduran children used in B.C. to sell drugs

Vancouver police suspect scores of youngsters involved

Police have picked up seven Honduran children aged 10 to 15 with crack cocaine this summer, and they suspect that as many as 100 Honduran kids are being used to sell drugs on the streets of Greater Vancouver.

Police and community members said yesterday they have seen only the tip of the iceberg.

The police pick up the children and have them placed in a safe environment as soon as they become aware that the children are playing a role in the drug trade, police spokesman Anne Drennan said yesterday.

"I'm bit sure how many are out there," she added. However, the police are aware that Honduran drug dealers have stretched down Hastings Street in East Vancouver and into the neighbouring suburbs of Burnaby and New Westminster, she said.

The most recent incident occurred earlier this week, when two detectives involved in another investigation in the east end of downtown saw a group of people, including a 10-year-old child, dealing drugs.

When the officers approached, the child quickly swallowed several rocks of crack cocaine )crystalline pieces of varing sizes) and the adults scattered.

"The officer was so shocked," said Staff Sergeant Doug MacKay-Dunn. He had the child taken to a hospital, allowing the adults to escape. "These people are like pimps using children in the sex-trade business," Staff Sgt. MacKay-Dunn added.

The child's mother, who allegedly was involved with illegal drugs, has recently left the child with some adults before going to San Francisco. The child could not speak English and police had to find a Spanish translator.

The boy eventually spat up 18 rocks of cocaine, and 10 more rocks were pumped from his stomach.

Police believe the use of Honduran children is part of a drug ring that has recently set up in Vancouver after several Honduran drug dealers were chased ou of San Francisco and then Portland, Ore.

The children, who are mostly between 10 and 13 are too young to be charged with drug dealing, are used as "mules" to carry illegal crack cocaine, while older people sell the drugs.

In addition to the seven children who were apprehended, Vancouver drug investigators have also charged 61 Spanish-speaking adults from Honduras and elsewhere since the beginning of the year.

p. A6.

Immigrant children used in Vancouver drug sales

However, the RCMP have not made arrests in connection with the smuggling of children across the U.S. border.

Burnaby Councillor Doug Evans said the group initially settled in apartments near Metrotown Shopping Centre. As many as 20 people wre living in one- and two-bedroom apartments that were crawling with vermin, he added.

The drug ring had arranged for children and young adults to be smuggled into Mexico, the United States and then Canada. As soon as they enter the country, they claim refugee status and apply for welfare, Mr. Evans said. As a member of Burnaby's community policing committee, he said, he has been given information about the drug operation by police.

"Some of these people were given $500 for their rent and they straight out to sell drugs," he added. "The government has been financing people who are trained to peddle drugs to our citizens.

"The they get young people hooked on crack cocaine and these people need money for drugs."

Marisa Adair, spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Human Resources, said the government has provided assistance to fewer than five children this summer who came from outside the province.

Adults who are in the process of applying for refugee status are eligible for welfare, she added.

Bernadette Murphy, a spokeman for the provincial Ministry for Children and Families, said the government will provide housing, food and clothing to any child who is known to the government to be in difficulty.

Meanwhile, the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Safety Office said police may be underestimating the number of Honduran children involved in the drug trade.

Apart from those the police have picked up, the organization, in collaboration with community groups and Spanish-speaking social workers, has been able to take about half a dozen Honduran children used as drug carriers off the street and place then in facilities for children at high risk.

With report from Celia Sankar.

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Created: September 14, 1998
Last modified: September 14, 1998

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