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Vancouver eyes surveillance cams to deter drunks

CTV.ca | November 13, 2006

Vancouver police say the city's downtown entertainment district is turning into a battle zone and are asking for surveillance cameras to help deter rowdy behaviour.

The district's three-block stretch on Granville St. has more than 5,000 seats licensed for liquor in bars and clubs.

Since bars were given a green light to serve alcohol until 3 a.m. on weekends a few months ago, police say they have arrested more than 300 people for disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and public urination

Open disorder, public disorder, fighting in and around the bars and assaulting police officers have become all too common for us," Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Bob Rich told CTV Newsnet.

In one of the worst incidents, an officer's leg was broken in four places when he tried to arrest a man for having an open liquor beverage on the street, police said.

Police are adding more officers to patrol the district and are cracking down to make the area safer. But resources to do this are being borrowed from other services.

"On a Friday and Saturday night a lot of our resources are sucked in down here," police spokesman Cal Patel said. "It's difficult for us to provide service on Friday and Saturday night to the rest of the downtown core."

Police are asking the province for money to install closed circuit television cameras, similar to those used in Britain. It is hoped the cameras will:

Curb crime because people know their behaviour is being recorded
Protect police officers
Ensure officers conduct themselves properly when responding to problems
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan said he is considering the proposal, but hasn't made up his mind.

Critics, however, say the cameras are an invasion of privacy.

"What is the data that suggests it's effective?" asked B.C. Civil Liberties Association spokesperson Michael Vonn.

"They don't tell us or the police board," he said. "No proposal is before them or before council. But the police announce it's phase one of the project."

A coalition of bar owners on the street said they aren't waiting for the city to install cameras.

At least one owner of a new pub on the strip said he's installing dozens. He's convinced it will deter fights.

Toronto police are pondering cameras, as well, because of similar problems with public conduct in its entertainment district.

Four people were shot outside a nightclub on Toronto's strip on Saturday night, and a police officer was also stabbed Saturday night while trying to arrest a man who knifed six others in a street fight.

The officer was lightly wounded, but two knifing victims are in hospital in serious condition.

In Halifax, a U.S. sailor died recently after trying to break up a fight outside a nightclub. Three people were also shot to death in an Edmonton nightclub recently.


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