Armed with a camera, Will Dugger has been spending his free time, seated at an intersection in south Haney, eyeing every car that slows down.
He makes it rather obvious he’s documenting their license plates, especially if he catches them approaching a sex trade worker.
“I’m not playing a game,” says Dugger, who was propelled into action last month after a man propositioned his 18-year-old daughter.
“If I can do something to effect change, I will.”
Initially, Dugger stapled large hand-written signs to telephone and hydro poles in the Maple Ridge neighbourhood, along North Avenue, 224th and Fraser streets, warning sex trade workers and their clients, or “johns,” they were being watched.
The signs, however, contravened a municipal bylaw and were promptly taken down by district staff.
Dugger now plans on using his truck as a billboard to shame the folks who are travelling to his neighbourhood to buy sex.
“I’m not going away,” he says.
“I’m just saying, ‘move, go somewhere else. Do it on the main strip on Lougheed. Not in a residential area.’
Dugger’s approach, however, isn’t supported by groups that advocate for sex trade workers because it leads to displacement and pushes the trade further underground, thus making it more dangerous.
“He is complicating an already difficult situation,” said Susan Davis, a sex trade worker, advocate and activist from Vancouver.
“You are putting people in harm’s way by forcing them to move. If they really want to do something, they should sit down with the women, meet with them and try to find a way to meet everybody’s safety concerns.”
Even local Mounties recommend that Dugger cease his shaming tactics.
The Ridge-Meadows detachment reports it has received just four complaints about prostitution from the south Haney neighbourhood since the beginning of the year.
Sgt. Daryl Creighton’s Street Enforcement Unit last conducted an undercover sting a year ago.
He disagrees with Dugger and other residents who claims that the neighbourhood lacks police patrols.
“We have maintained a police presence in the area between Dewdney Trunk Road, the Fraser River, 222nd Street and 228th Street,” said Creighton.
The Ridge Meadows RCMP Community Resource Team continues both foot and bike patrols of the neighbourhood, and general duty officers are in the area daily.
“All of our officers have gotten to know the street survival workers, and they check up on them on a regular basis,” Creighton said.
“RCMP strongly discourage citizens taking the law into their own hands. If anyone observes this, or any other type of criminal event occurring, we ask they call our office. All police officers are trained in dealing with these matters, and diffusing conflicts.”