Vancouver Police made five arrests and recovered more than $650,000 in cash, drugs, and property during a months-long project targeting organized criminals who traffic stolen merchandise in the Downtown Eastside.

“The shoplifting epidemic is fueling an illicit market for stolen property that impacts small businesses, employees, and consumers,” says Inspector Mario Mastropieri. “Much of that illicit market runs straight through the Downtown Eastside, where stolen property is bought and sold in plain sight, then resold for profit online.”

This spring, specialized anti-fencing investigators worked with front-line patrol officers to track stolen property from store shelves to the sidewalks of the Downtown Eastside, where organized fencing operations pay pennies on the dollar for stolen goods. Using various investigative techniques, officers then tracked stolen property from the Downtown Eastside to homes in residential neighbourhoods, where police believe it was being resold online.

“Our work confirmed that fencing operations are fueling an underground economy of shoplifting, and that some criminals are making thousands of dollars a week for buying and selling stolen merchandise,” adds Inspector Mastropieri.

“These criminal fences recruit desperate and drug addicted Downtown Eastside residents to steal from stores. They pay the thieves a fraction of the retail price for the merchandise they’ve stolen, then live comfortably off the avails of the goods they resell for big profits.”

Investigation Results:

  • In March 2024, VPD officers working in the Downtown Eastside initiated an investigation into a man and woman in their 60s who were seen buying stolen property on East Hastings Street. Working with specialized investigators from VPD’s Identify Theft and Anti-Fencing Unit (ITAFU), officers gathered evidence that led them to a home on East Georgia Street, in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. When investigators executed a search warrant, they discovered stolen electronics, designer clothing, over-the-counter pain medication, and vitamins. The suspects were arrested for possession of stolen property, and are currently on bail pending their next court appearance.

Recovered: $155,000 cash

$150,000 property

Arrests:        2


  • In April 2024, VPD officers working in the Downtown Eastside saw a man and woman buying stolen property near East Hastings and Carrall Street. Working with ITAFU, the officers conducted an investigation, which led them to homes in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area and the Hastings-Sunrise area of East Vancouver. There, officers seized stolen baby formula, athletic apparel, toiletries, vitamins, electronics, and alcohol, among other goods. Investigators also seized two cars, which police believe were being used to store and transport stolen property out of the Downtown Eastside. A man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s face numerous criminal charges for possession of stolen property.


Recovered: $233,000 property

Seized:         2004 Toyota Sienna

2015 Toyota Corolla

Arrests:        2


  • In May 2024, ITAFU executed search warrants at a home on Nanaimo Street, near Trout Lake Park, following an investigation into a 52-year-old woman who was buying stolen property in the Downtown Eastside. Investigators seized a car, as well as stolen cosmetics, clothing, designer purses, athletic apparel, liquor, vitamins, and narcotics. The woman was arrested and faces charges of possession of stolen property, as well as possible charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


Recovered: $107,000 property

Seized:         $10,000 cocaine and fentanyl

2006 Infinity

Arrests:        1


“These were complex and lengthy investigations that involved dozens of skilled front-line officers and specialized investigators,” says Inspector Mike Kim, officer in charge of VPD’s Identify Theft and Anti-Fencing Unit. “In each of these cases, we believe criminals knowingly bought stolen property on East Hastings Street and drove it to their homes with the intention of selling it online.”


The arrests came during the latest phase of Project Barcode, initiated by Vancouver Police in February 2023 to combat violent and chronic shoplifters at retail stores throughout the city. Since then, VPD’s anti-shoplifting and anti-fencing initiatives have resulted in nearly 1,200 arrests, recovery of $1.4 million in stolen property, seizure of six vehicles for asset forfeiture, and seizure of $10,000 in illicit drugs.


Related news:

March 2023: VPD makes 217 arrests in three-week shoplifting crackdown – Vancouver Police Department

May 2023: VPD keeps up pressure on violent shoplifters – Vancouver Police Department

October 2023 VPD makes 258 arrests in latest retail-theft blitz – Vancouver Police Department

December 2023: VPD continues to tackle violent shoplifters – Vancouver Police Department

Video links for media