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The City of Vancouver has announced its game plan for the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, set to begin April 11. The plan was devised to stop any rioting as occurred during the 2011 Stanley Cup game 7, during which millions of dollars in property damages and looting was carried out by several thousand people in the downtown core.
City officials unveiled their anti-riot strategy during a March 27 press conference. The Canucks are ranked third overall as of March 29, although their playoff hopes are dimming with the recent injuring of Daniel Sedin by the Chicago Blackhawk's Duncan Keith. Keith's hit on Sedin resulted in a concussion for one of the Canuck's most valuable players and a suspension for Keith. The Canucks claim Sedin will be ready to play by playoff time, while sports pundits don't believe the Canucks will have a chance during the playoffs without him.
So, what is the game plan for a potential Canucks playoff run into the finals? There will be no giant jumbo TV screens or street closures in the downtown area, as there were in 2011. Instead, the city will be spending a minimum of $100,000 for decentralized, alcohol-free, family-friendly 'community celebrations' in some 23 community centers.
The VPD will be coordinating with other police forces in the lower mainland to impose a regime of surveillance and control along transit routes, primarily Skytrain, focusing on alchohol transport and consumption. The VPD will also be employing more video surveillance technology as well as social media to identify people after any disturbances.
The VPD outlined its plan in a March 27 press release, which was aimed both at deterring would-be rioters as well as countering critics of the department's handling of last year's riot:
“If trouble breaks out this year, we are prepared.
“There have been lessons learned from the 2011 riot that have left police better equipped and better positioned to deal with that type of event this year and in the future.
“Lower Mainland police departments, and specifically the Transit Police, will be actively looking to interdict any liquor from being transported into the downtown core on game nights. They will be intercepting riders all along the Sky Train routes who may try to bring liquor onto the platform.
“We will keep the LCLB [liquor Control Board, the provincial government agency that runs liquor stores] routinely informed with information that will help them make discussions concerning liquor store closings.
“We’re also making provisions for more arrests, speedier investigations and less time to get charges to court.
“More officers will be equipped with cameras to capture images of law-breakers while new equipment at the VPD will be used to analyze those images in order to bring recommendations of charges in a timelier manner.
“Social media will be widely deployed to aid in the identification of the people caught on camera.
“We want the Canucks to win this year and we want everyone to celebrate safely, but make no mistake — if you come downtown intending to make trouble, we will be waiting for you.”
(Vancouver Police Comment on 2012 Canucks Play-offs, by Deputy Chief Doug LePard, March 27, 2012)
During a police board meeting on March 21, VPD chief Jim Chu had crudely stated the strategy as being one of deterring people from gathering in downtown Vancouver at all: "So I think this time around 'don't come downtown' is going to be the philosophy" (“Crowd control strategy in works,” by Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, March 24, 2012)
A few days later, on March 24, Chu revised his comments in a press release clearly reflecting the interests of downtown business owners: “At all times and during the hockey playoffs, the Vancouver Police are encouraging people to come downtown to enjoy our bars, restaurants, arenas, theaters, shopping and street ambience. Our focus is to make it safe for you to enjoy our city. You are not welcome in Vancouver if you intend to engage in public drinking, hooliganism and criminal behavior” (“Vancouver Canuck fans still welcome downtown - if they behave: police chief Jim Chu,” by Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun, March 24, 2012)
Nearly one year after the riot, and out of the several thousand who participated, just 75 have been charged with a total of 197 offences (as of March 29, 2012). Vancouver police used new video technology to sort through thousands of hours of video footage and photographs to identify rioters. Along with the police video surveillance and CCTV cameras inside stores, social media such as Facebook were trolled by cops and citizen vigilantes searching for rioters boasting of their deeds and posting self-incriminating images. The VPD's Integrated Riot Investigation Team (IRIT), established to investigate riot-related charges, then set up a web site with photographs of suspects for members of the public to identify.