Lesson 10: Problem-Solving Courts

Topic 1: Downtown Community Court

The Downtown Community Court (DCC) opened in Vancouver in September 2008. The court brings into one location 14 justice, health and social services agencies who work together to find solutions to the problems that drive people to commit crime. The community court was established because many offenders in Downtown Vancouver have mental illness, a drug addiction, or both, and are repeat offenders. Many are frequently homeless or lack job skills and social support. These are problems the justice system cannot address by itself.

The DCC is testing new ways to reduce crime and improve public safety. It deals with offenders more quickly through a more coordinated and informed response, while also holding them accountable.

The DCC also provides new opportunities for people, businesses and organizations in the community to be part of the solution. The community court’s jurisdiction is the Central Business district, Chinatown, Coal Harbour, Downtown Eastside, Gastown, Strathcona, Yaletown, and the West End, including Stanley Park.

The DCC:

  • Looks at the underlying cause of the criminal behavior
  • Is a partnership between justice, health and social services, which provides timely, coordinated response for treatment and sentencing
  • Operates on the principle that integrated case management can help offenders make long-term changes to their behavior
  • Relies on the relationship with and involvement of neighbourhood and community services
  • Hears cases quickly so offenders can begin reparations almost immediately

Sentences range from community service (to compensate the community for harm done by the crime) to community supervision to jail time. Community service can include such things as cleaning neighbourhoods, working in community kitchens and cleaning and maintaining roadways and community gardens, sidewalks and alleys.

The DCC team includes the following staff: Provincial court judge, a coordinator, Crown counsel, a defence lawyer, a Vancouver police officer, sheriffs, a court clerk, probation officers, a forensic liaison worker, a forensic psychiatrist, a nurse, health justice workers, an employment assistance worker, a victims services worker, a BC housing support worker and Aboriginal court worker.

The DCC is located on 211 Gore Street in Downtown Vancouver and includes two courtrooms.