Canucks fans celebrating the team’s playoff run will likely see dozens of smaller-scale events where it will be more difficult to access alcohol as the city attempts to prevent a repeat of last year’s riot.
Mayor Gregor Robertson released broad details Tuesday of Vancouver’s plans for this year’s NHL playoffs, which will seek to avoid the massive crowds that gathered in front of large screens downtown to watch Game 7 between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins,
The city says the focus will be on smaller events such as block parties and viewing events at community centres, although officials will consider using Rogers arena downtown if the Canucks advance in the playoffs.
Vancouver will also work with the local transit authority and the provincial government to curtail the sale of alcohol and prevent huge numbers of people from arriving in the downtown core. That could involve cutting back transit service if crowds begin to grow.
The city doesn’t actually have a detailed plan for what the smaller events will be, but organizers say they’re working on those details and expect to spend roughly $50,000 to $100,000.
The Canucks’ playoff run last year was marked by ever-increasing outdoor celebrations, which saw tens of thousands of fans gather at a large celebration site downtown.
It was at the outdoor site where trouble first began.
Fans in Canucks jerseys who were in the celebration site flipped the first car and set it on fire, starting a riot that saw windows smashed, cars set ablaze and stores looted over several blocks.
The damage was in the millions, and dozens of people are now facing charges, including two who have pleaded guilty.
Four reports containing a total of 129 recommendations were written about the riot last year, and all agreed the massive crowds combined with excessive alcohol consumption contributed to the mayhem.
An independent report commissioned by the city and the province concluded police were caught off guard and were in a state of confusion as trouble began, although the same report also said more officers wouldn’t have helped.
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. A risk assessment should be created for any major events, the report said.
The authors said the region’s transit authority should be able to curtail service if massive crowds start to form downtown to prevent them from becoming any larger.
The report also said alcohol should be prohibited on public transit, and that police should have greater powers of search and seizure to detect it. Police on the streets should also more aggressively target open alcohol, the report said, and pass out more fines instead of simply pouring out booze.
The Vancouver police have warned the city against staging large gatherings that don’t allow organizers to control who comes and goes, and have said regional governments need to find ways to prevent fans carrying alcohol from boarding public transit and reaching the downtown core.
So far, 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.
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.
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