Bar Watch chair raps red tape

Pro­gram that tar­gets gang­sters has sup­port but needs RCMP ‘pol­icy shift’

The Province - - News - JEN­NIFER SALT­MAN THE PROV­INCE jen­salt­[email protected]­p­rovince.com twit­ter.com/jen­salt­man

The chair of the Bar Watch pro­gram says RCMP red tape is pre­vent­ing the lo­cal de­tach­ment from set­ting up pro­grams tar­get­ing gang­sters who fre­quent bars, restau­rants and other busi­nesses in Sur­rey.

“There’s a re­luc­tance on the be­half of the RCMP to take some ag­gres­sive steps for fear that they’re go­ing to be sued or chas­tised, or what­ever,” said Cur­tis Robin­son, a re­tired Van­cou­ver po­lice sergeant who helped re­vamp Van­cou­ver’s Bar Watch in 2007.

Busi­nesses that par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram scan the driver’s li­cences of those who en­ter, and “un­de­sir­able” pa­trons are de­nied en­try. Their in­for­ma­tion is then shared with other Bar Watch mem­bers, a prac­tice that has drawn crit­i­cism from civil lib­er­ties groups.

Po­lice can also en­ter Bar Watch es­tab­lish­ments with­out con­sult­ing staff or man­age­ment and re­move peo­ple they iden­tify as po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous to the pub­lic.

Essen­tially, the pro­gram stream­lines the process for po­lice of­fi­cers who are al­ready tar­get­ing peo­ple in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

“Th­ese peo­ple got sick and tired of be­ing thrown out of the bars and they went out to the (Fraser) Val­ley,” said Robin­son. He said that be­cause there is no pro­gram like Bar Watch in place in most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, those in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity can stay un­der the radar.

Robin­son said he re­ceived a call shortly af­ter the gang-re­lated mur­der of Craig Wid­di­field in the park­ing lot of a South Sur­rey mall in April to meet with Mayor Dianne Watts and other stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the Sur­rey RCMP, about how to start a pro­gram like Bar Watch in the city.

On Tues­day, he met with the Sur­rey Board of Trade to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the pro­gram and urge its mem­bers to sup­port city and po­lice ef­forts.

“I know Dianne Watts is very in­ter­ested, as is Chief Supt. (Bill) Fordy, in get­ting this thing off the ground in Sur­rey,” Robin­son said.

He stressed that he is not plac­ing the blame on the lo­cal de­tach­ment, but on up­per man­age­ment; the pro­gram has not been im­ple­mented in any com­mu­ni­ties po­liced by the RCMP.

“I don’t think it’s fair to crit­i­cize the po­lice for not do­ing enough,” Robin­son said. “There needs to be a pol­icy shift at the crim­i­nal op­er­a­tions level, at the ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers’ level, at the le­gal level, to sup­port the of­fi­cers on the street in­ter­ested in mak­ing the streets of Sur­rey safer.”

Sur­rey RCMP and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity are in the early stages of look­ing into what hur­dles stand in the way of im­ple­ment­ing a Bar Watch-style pro­gram and how to elim­i­nate them.

“As a fed­eral po­lice force we deal with dif­fer­ent le­gal­ity is­sues, and I think that’s what’s be­ing ad­dressed in some of the meet­ings,” said Sur­rey RCMP spokesman Cpl. Bert Pa­quet.

“Def­i­nitely we are in sup­port of any ini­tia­tives that are aimed at in­creas­ing safety in the com­mu­nity.”

With a record high of 22 mur­ders in Sur­rey this year — most of which have been at­trib­uted to crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity and high­risk life­styles — Pa­quet said Sur­rey RCMP have been tar­get­ing gang mem­bers to make them feel un­com­fort­able and un­wel­come.

“I think the mes­sage from the Sur­rey RCMP has not changed,” Pa­quet said.

“We’re just look­ing at more and more avail­able op­tions and tools at our dis­posal to back up that prom­ise to our com­mu­nity — to make Sur­rey a safer place to be.”

JENELLE SCH­NEI­DER/PNG

Bar Watch chair Cur­tis Robin­son, a re­tired Van­cou­ver Po­lice sergeant, spoke to the Sur­rey Board of Trade on Tues­day to urge its mem­bers to sup­port city and po­lice ef­forts.

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