Sexual-predator case prompts police review

The Vancouver Sun
Friday, September 28, 2001

Lori Culbert and Kim Bolan

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Vancouver police are reviewing why it took the department two months to arrest a sexual-assault suspect who went on to rape and kill another woman while he was free on the streets.

"The chief has ordered a review of the situation because, of course, we want to ensure it was done as thoroughly as possible," media liaison Detective Scott Driemel said Thursday.

"At this point the investigator [on the case], of course, is being spoken to by his supervisors."

The story on Lance Clare Dove was part of The Vancouver Sun's five-part series on the escalating number of missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and whether police resources in B.C. are sufficient to hunt down serial predators.

After Dove became a suspect in the March 1999 rape of a Vancouver prostitute, the investigator on the case twice contacted him by cell phone to ask him to come to police headquarters for an interview.

Following the second phone call, on Aug. 3, 1999, Dove went out that night and met Kimberly Ann Tracey, a 28-year-old Vancouver mother, who he raped and murdered.

Dove, a former Burnaby tow-truck driver, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Tracey in July. Last week, a deadlocked jury led a B.C. Supreme Court judge to declare a mistrial in the sexual-assault case.

Driemel said he was limited in what he could say about the investigation into the sexual-assault charge, as the case may be brought before the courts again.

However, he said the officers in charge of the sexual assault squad are leading the review, and will consider the chronology of how the file was investigated, the information that was available, and access to the suspect.

"I can say that access to the suspect basically was the crux of the issue in this particular case."

The investigator has said he did not know where Dove was living from the middle of April, 1999, when the Vancouver police started its investigation, until his arrest in connection with Tracey's murder in August that year.

The investigator was able to reach him by cell phone, but Dove did not show up for meetings scheduled with police -- including one on Aug. 4, the day after Tracey was killed.

The investigator also said the sexual-assault unit was handling many other cases, and there was no indication from Dove's record that he might be a risk.

Driemel said that "at first blush" it appears the detective did thorough work.

"I can't get into the little idiosyncrasies that were involved in the investigation, however I will say it wasn't exactly a cut-and-dried case by any means," he said.

"It's one of those situations where the case was worked on by the investigator, it appears to be to the best of his certain ability. Of course, unfortunately, it had tragic results in the end."

Driemel said arresting Dove earlier may not have prevented the murder. He noted that even if the suspect had been charged more promptly with the sexual assault, there is a possibility he would have been out on bail on Aug. 3.

Driemel said the review will take a "short period of time." He said if members of Tracey's family are not satisfied with the results of the review, they can lay a formal complaint against the police.

Tracey's brother Stephen said Thursday he is happy media attention is forcing police to review what happened.

"Everything is getting attention now. The women of the street are getting attention and my sister's case is getting attention," he said.

He said his family is meeting with a lawyer to find out what other steps they should take to get answers from the police.

The Traceys want to know how a man identified as a suspect in a sexual assault was left on the streets until he killed someone.

In response to The Sun's series, Solicitor-General Rich Coleman said Wednesday he is in favour of forming regional policing units in the Lower Mainland in such areas as major crimes, identification and the dog squad.

Six municipal departments and a slew of RCMP detachments currently police the Greater Vancouver area. Some senior officers say investigations into major cases that cross city boundaries can be hampered because the agencies use different computer technologies, filing systems and investigative techniques.

Coleman stopped short of calling for a Greater Vancouver regional police department, but favours the area amalgamating some specialized services. In about a month, the RCMP is expected to complete a report for the B.C. government on merging police units.

The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has discussed the need to merge major crimes, forensic, canine and traffic units across the Lower Mainland, said president Jim Cessford.

Such a move would be an efficient way to spend resources and provide valuable experience to officers who would be able to work on a wide variety of cases across the district, he said.

"With other priorities and other things that have come up, we haven't maybe made it as high a priority as we should have," Cessford said of regionalized units.

"Obviously now there is a willingness on the part of the solicitor-general to enter discussions about that, and see how they can assist us in amalgamating some of these areas."

Cessford, who is also the Delta police chief, said his association is against regionalizing entire police departments. He argued there is better service to communities when officers are working for local agencies.

But he agrees improvements are needed to computer systems used by different police forces, so they can speak with each other about crimes that cross city boundaries.

Some municipal politicians have been hesitant to endorse regionalization, for fear it will reduce services in their local departments.

In Vancouver, Driemel said regional units could improve information-sharing among officers in different departments. But he believes the challenge of the units will be determining which cases -- in which cities -- the squads will take.

"Every municipality likes to maintain ownership and direction of their own investigators," Driemel said.

"I think it's a little bit early to actually say whether it's a bona fide, workable possibility, but it's certainly something that is worth discussing at this point."

RCMP Constable Danielle Efford, spokeswoman for RCMP headquarters in B.C., said the Mounties will have more to say about regionalization when the policing study is finished next month.

In general, she said the RCMP already works effectively with other forces on some cases.

"Working together is a high priority for us. . . . It is part of being fiscally responsible."

How the investigation was flawed-Sept 22, 2001
DNA Samples not used-Sept 24, 2001
Police didn't pick up suspect who later murdered-Sept 25, 2001
B.C. slow to adopt lessons from Bernardo case-Sept 26, 2001
A killer's slip-up gave police a break-Sept 28, 2001
Police build a bridge to families-Oct 4, 2001  
Vanished without a trace-July 29, 2001

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