If the Canucks make the Stanley Cup playoffs, Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu has a warning for fans: “Don’t come downtown is going to be the philosophy.”
Chu said Wednesday at a Vancouver Police Board meeting the city is against downtown celebrations and wants them replaced with regional festivities parties at community centres.
“The ’94 riot there was nothing, but people came anyway. The thought afterwards was well we need to give them something to do. So in 2011 the thought was put screens up, encourage families to come down to give the balance of crowd dynamics,” he said. “Of course, that didn’t work, so I think this time around don’t come downtown is going to be the philosophy.”
Chu said having thousands of onlookers downtown after the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs last June made it hard for police to tackle rioters. “I talked to one frontline officer who wanted to get at a rioter who threw a Molotov cocktail, and he couldn’t get at them because there was a mom and dad and two kids standing there, watching everything and wouldn’t go home.”
Chu’s comments echo those of former VPD spokesperson Const. Anne Drennan who famously told Vancouverites looking to celebrate the dawn of the new millennium, “Don’t think you’re going to come down and party on the street.” Her comment was widely seen as a low point in Vancouver’s reputation as “No Fun City,” a moniker finally shed by the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Board member Mary Collins questioned the city’s approach. “The basic demographic involved, the young males, I don’t think they’d be going to the community centres in Dunbar or Marpole,” she said.
Collins wondered whether anyone was studying deterrents for the demographic of young men largely responsible for the riot. She suggested developing a campaign akin to the anti-drinking and driving campaign mounted 25 years ago.
Chu called criminal charges and the police’s poster campaign deterrents. He noted 150 individuals have been recommended for riot-related charges. “If you think every single person tells two friends they’re up on charges [that] spreads quite significantly,” Chu said, noting he believes the poster campaign is working. “I’ve shared some anecdotes with the board that people are looking actively on the website to see if their picture appears so that they don’t get on the next poster. That’s 70,000 copies throughout the region.”
Chu added riots run in cycles so deterrents for one generation might be lost on the next. “When we have the Peachfest, or the Kelowna regatta, or the ’94 riot, there’s a whole generation of people that realize holy smoke, we can get in big trouble by doing it,” he said. “I’m not saying we’d be OK for now, but I think that message is there. Ten years from now there’ll be another generation of kids that may not remember it and we may see a repeat of it.”
City manager Penny Ballem will speak about plans for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs at a regular council meeting March 27.