Vancouver to stage smaller scale Canucks celebrations a year after riot
VANCOUVER - Vancouver is ditching the giant outdoor Stanley Cup viewing parties that saw massive crowds and a "toxic soup" of alcohol boil over into a chaotic riot last year, instead planning dozens of smaller events that the city hopes will be enough to keep fans under control.
The city released its preliminary plans for playoff celebrations Tuesday, saying it will stage block parties and events at neighbourhood community centres, while working with police and transit officials to prevent fans from bringing alcohol downtown.
"People are good at figuring out how to celebrate responsibly, and you can have lots of fun celebrating responsibly," Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters before presenting the plan to city council.
"Fun doesn't mean that you come and trash our downtown — that's not on."
The Canucks' playoff run last year was marked by ever-increasing outdoor celebrations, which saw tens of thousands of fans gather in front of giant TV screens downtown.
It was there that trouble first began on June 15, Game 7 of the final round of the playoffs, when fans wearing Canucks jerseys spent hours smashing windows, setting cars ablaze and looting stores, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Subsequent reviews of what happened concluded too many people were downtown, and they were drinking too much alcohol. Robertson said the city's plan for this year aims to prevent both.
There will be no giant screens downtown. Instead, the city will be organizing smaller regional events, such as setting up viewing screens at community centres and staging Canucks-themed block parties, said Robertson.
The city will ask the province to restrict liquor store hours during the playoffs, as it did last year, and police will be more aggressive in targeting people caught with open alcohol or boarding public transit carrying booze.
If large numbers of fans still gather downtown, the regional transit authority will attempt to stem the flow of people by reducing service, skipping stops and emptying trains before they reach the city's core.
The city and the police said they will improve their planning and co-ordination, creating more detailed risk-assessments and ensuring municipal staff, the police, the fire department and the local ambulance service are all working together.
The plan will be rolled out if the Canucks reach the third round of the playoffs, and the city expects to spend as much as $100,000 on Cancucks-related events.
Robertson acknowledged the city still hasn't nailed down exactly what events it will hold.
"The actual celebration events that are coming in the coming weeks, that's in process now," said Robertson.
"That's the celebration side of the plan. The dealing with potential trouble and being proactive and heading it off at the pass, all that work has been done and is being rolled out now."
The plan also includes measures to more accurately track the number of people heading downtown and to adjust the police response accordingly.
Transit officials and police plan to increase their presence at the region's SkyTrain stations to stop people with liquor from boarding transit destined for downtown.
Deputy Chief Doug LePard of the Vancouver police said he'll be working with his counterparts in neighbouring cities to ensure they are all doing the same thing.
"One of the things that we realize now more than ever is that we can't allow the toxic soup that we saw last year occurring in Vancouver," said LePard.
"We need to interdict it much earlier."
LePard noted 80 per cent of the suspects police have identified from last year's riot were from outside Vancouver.
Four reports containing a total of 129 recommendations were written about last year's riot.
The most high profile was an independent report commissioned by the city and the province, which concluded police were caught off guard and were in a state of confusion as trouble began.
The report made a number of recommendations, including that the city work with emergency agencies and neighbouring communities to better plan for large events, including the creation of a "regional event" designation that would trigger region-wide planning.
Robertson said the city and its emergency services have implemented 80 per cent of those recommendations, and the rest are almost complete.
So far, criminal charges have been approved against 75 alleged rioters. The Crown is considering recommendations involving another 75 suspects, and police expect to forward more cases to prosecutors in the months ahead.
Only two people have pleaded guilty for rioting.
Twenty-year-old Ryan Dickinson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 17 months for trashing an unmarked police vehicle and throwing a newspaper box through a clothing store window.
Another rioter, 19-year-old Emmanuel Alviar, pleaded guilty earlier this month and will be sentenced in May.
A teenager in Surrey pleaded guilty to possessing stolen property, but he wasn't convicted of actually participating in the riot. He received an absolute discharge.