Police presence within street-based drug scenes has the potential to disrupt injection drug users' (IDUs) access to health services and prompt increased injection-related risk behaviour. We examined street-level policing in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver during the Olympic Winter games, to assess the potential impact on access to harm reduction services and injection-related risk behaviour.
We analysed data from observational activities documenting police and drug user behaviour, unstructured interviews with drug users in street settings (n=15), expert interviews with legal and health professionals (n=6), as well as utilisation statistics from a local supervised injection facility (SIF).
Although police presence was elevated within the DTES during the Olympics, there was little evidence to suggest that police activities influenced IDUs' access to health services or injection-related risk behaviour. SIF attendance during the Olympics was consistent with regular monthly patterns.
Police presence during the Olympics did not reduce access to health services amongst local IDUs or prompt increased injection-related risk behaviour. Increased cooperation between local law enforcement and public health bodies likely offset the potential for negative health consequences resulting from police activity.