Delta police stopped two people this week allegedly trying to re-sell thousands of face and surgical masks — at “highly inflated” prices — in defiance of a provincial order banning such sales.
According to a press release, a constable with the Delta Police Department’s crime reduction unit, which typically focuses on stolen property, was proactively looking through online ads when she came upon an individual looking to re-sell N95 masks.
The officer reached out and arranged to buy a quantity of masks at a price of $15 per unit, plus a $300 “delivery fee.”
Secondary sales of medical supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as cleaning supplies and food, were banned by the province on March 26 as part of a series of orders under the Emergency Program Act aimed at co-ordinating pandemic responses province-wide and putting an end to the “shameful black market for medical supplies,” as Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth put it, that has materialized as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Prior to meeting with the seller on Thursday, April 2, police contacted the City of Delta’s bylaw enforcement section to determine what offences would apply in these circumstances.
The seller, a Burnaby resident, showed up to the pre-arranged location driving a luxury vehicle. A police officer approached the man and informed him he would be receiving a $500 bylaw ticket for operating without a business licence. Police took possession of 60 masks, for which the seller was asking $1,200.
“Our crime reduction unit follows crime trends, and it’s troubling to see people trying to flout the ministerial order during this pandemic,” Cris Leykauf, public affairs manager for the Delta Police Department, said in a press release.
A day later, on Friday, April 3, Delta police handed a second person a $500 bylaw ticket after arranging to purchase 3,000 surgical masks from them for $2,200.
Both sellers voluntarily relinquished the masks to police, with the second seller relinquishing an additional 2,300 units. In total, police took possession of 5,360 masks between the two.
The department will be working with the Fraser Health Authority to determine how the masks can best be put to use.
— with files from Katya Slepian