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Surrey RCMP: Working the crowd

Police will be watching over two Canucks celebration sites in Surrey, at Central City and 72 Avenue and Scott Road (above). - Boaz Joseph / The Leader
Police will be watching over two Canucks celebration sites in Surrey, at Central City and 72 Avenue and Scott Road (above).
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / The Leader

Surrey Mounties say they will be heading into largely uncharted waters, as Vancouver Canucks celebrations will now involve at least two large crowds.

Over the past several years, Surrey RMCP and Delta Police have watched over a large spontaneous crowd that gathers after Canucks' games at Scott Road and 72 Avenue. That crowd is largely people who spill out from nearby homes in the Newton area and take over the busy intersection.

The last Canucks' game, the deciding event between San Jose and Vancouver, brought out more than 5,000 revellers.

Now, the city has decided it will hold an organized event for people who want to watch the game at Central City. Capacity crowds of more than 5,000 are expected.

In charge of ensuring local celebrations remain peaceful is Surrey RCMP Cpl. Drew Grainger, who manages operational planning for special events.

The Central City event adds a new wrinkle.

He plans to have two dozen officers at the site during the first game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins today.

"It's going to be a very fluid event, because as I say, we've never done this before," Grainger said sounding a little like the Canucks coach as he added, "we'll have to assess it game by game."

Parties throughout the region from Abbotsford to Vancouver are expected to increasingly draw on police resources as the Stanley Cup final progresses.

"All the sites will build," Grainger said. "And it's going to put a drain on police resources throughout the entire region."

The policing costs will only increase as the series goes longer.

Surrey RCMP are being circumspect about the exact figures, but Grainger said it will cost at least $50,000 in overtime alone for the Vancouver-Boston series, and that's only if it's wrapped up in four games. If it goes seven games, that figure could double.

From a tactical standpoint, police throughout the region say they've learned from the successes and failures of the past.

The standing example of how not to police large crowds was the Vancouver riot in 1994, the last time the Canucks made it to the Stanely Cup finals.

Back then, the police remained separate from the roiling mass of Canucks fans and the Vancouver Police crowd control unit remained in the basement of a church until the riot broke out.

Police cruisers were rolled over by angry mobs, who looted downtown stores. Many people were tear-gassed and at least one was shot in the head with a rubber bullet by a Vancouver officer.

Both Vancouver Police Department Police Chief Jim Chu and Grainger were there. Grainger, then a four-year Mountie, was called in to assist when things got out of control. Both say police have learned a lot since then, particularly from the successful Olympics hosted in Vancouver last year.

Now revellers will see police milling through the crowd, shaking hands with them and making eye contact.

"It's something that we've learned with some of the crowd control issues that we've seen in the region as of late," Grainger said. "And a tactic that worked very well in the Olympics was just that, filtering through the crowds, being proactive, engaging them, removing their anonymity by giving them a high-five."

The message to the public is that the police are celebrating as well, but they have a job to do in making sure everyone is responsible and safe.

@diakiw

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