The Province

Bar Watch chair raps red tape

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

- JENNIFER SALTMAN THE PROVINCE jensaltman@theprovinc­e.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.
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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