Surrey RCMP hope to have Inadmissible Patron Program in place by year end

Surrey RCMP hope to have Inadmissible Patron Program in place by year end
Pride crosswalk in Surrey vandalized on purpose: RCMP – NEWS 1130
SURREY (NEWS 1130) – It’s been just over a month since we told you about a case of vandalism south of the Fraser River and it looks like police are a little bit closer to identifying the person responsible.

In late June, Mounties were called in and the City of Surrey had crews clean up a bunch of white paint that was splashed all over a rainbow crosswalk that was newly painted just before that city’s Pride festivities were to be held.

The RCMP now say they have been reviewing CCTV footage that shows someone throwing the paint but Corporal Elenore Sturko adds they aren’t releasing the images to the public yet.

“We talk about people being mischievous, thinking of it as more of a prank but mischief is actually a crime in the Criminal Code which refers to the willful damage or tampering with property, so this is actually a pretty serious property crime and we do take this type of case very seriously.”

Investigators do have that piece of CCTV footage but are hoping someone else comes forward with more video. “I think it’s concerning for the public when public property is damaged. We’re also happy to see the city was able to clean it up.”

The crosswalk was cleaned up in time for Surrey’s Pride festival which was held in Holland Park on Jun. 30th.

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It’s been the topic of discussion in the community for more than a decade, and now Surrey RCMP hope to have a program that targets gang members and associates who patronize local bars and restaurants in place by the end of this year.

“We have always called for it,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. “It’s a good program and we’re pleased that it’s going to be implemented.”

What finally prompted Surrey RCMP’s gang enforcement team to begin developing its own version of Bar Watch and Restaurant Watch — an Inadmissible Patron Program — was the release of a report last year from the province’s Illegal Firearms Task Force, that recommended expanding bar watch programs to communities where they are warranted.

Last month’s report from the Mayors Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention recommended the city support the Surrey RCMP in developing and implementing an Inadmissible Patron Program.

Surrey RCMP’s gang enforcement team is working on the program and hopes to have it in place by the end of the year, or sooner.

Because it is still being developed, there are few details about how it will work, but the program will allow police to remove “inadmissible patrons” from participating licensed establishments.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko said the program will give the businesses enrolled the ability to contact police if they see someone wearing gang colours or exhibiting certain behaviours and have trained gang enforcement team members attend.

Sturko said restaurants and bars in Surrey will not be scanning identification and will not have a list of names of people who are not inadmissible.

The program will be based on the Bar Watch and Restaurant Watch programs in place in Vancouver, and Surrey RCMP have been working with Vancouver police in developing their program, learning from their successes and challenges.

“Vancouver is basically able to be a mentor for us,” Sturko said. “It’s good for us that we’ve been able to have so much experience from our neighbours.”

Across the Fraser River, New Westminster police have had an Inadmissible Patron Program in place since 2013. It is open to any business. Once a business is approved for participation, it displays a decal on its window to show that it is a participant and agrees that people and groups involved in gang or violent criminal activity are not welcome. The business gives police the authorization to remove or bar those individuals from the property.

Surrey’s program will involve only licensed establishments to start, Sturko said, but there may be an opportunity to extend it to businesses other than restaurants and bars, such as fitness clubs, in the future.

Philip Aguirre, executive director of the Newton Business Improvement Association, said he and the association are in favour of programs that work toward improving the community.

“We always definitely need new initiatives and new programs that are trying different things,” he said. “When we do the same thing over and over again and get the same results, then we’re not doing our job.”

Aguirre said a program like Bar Watch or the Inadmissible Patron Program could put a lot of pressure on the business to police its patrons.

“I don’t see how a small business or a small restaurant would be able to enforce it or would want to put themselves in that situation,” he said.

When asked if he, as a restaurant owner, would participate in such a program, Aguirre said he would have to see the framework. He said his fine-dining restaurant doesn’t generally attract the kind of patrons that are being targeted.

Huberman said the Surrey program has to be more than a decal in a window and an agreement with police — an accreditation or training program for business owners will be key and will help relieve any pressure on business owners.

“As a business association here in the city our role is going to be around educating our business community in partnership with the Surrey RCMP,” she said.

Developing a made-in-Surrey program is also important, because the geography and business mix in Surrey is different than other communities.

Although the fine details of Surrey’s Inadmissible Patron Program have not been released, there are civil liberties concerns when it comes to Bar Watch, Restaurant Watch and similar programs, said B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn.

“That’s a deeply, deeply troubling extension of the powers of the state and we would obviously have concerns about that,” she said.

She said it’s a method of screening, surveillance and “black listing” that’s not transparent. There’s no way to appeal a decision to remove someone from a business and it constricts people’s life choices. It can also have consequences for other groups of people, such as minorities, who are profiled and excluded.

Vonn doesn’t minimize the fact that there are safety concerns when it comes to gangs, but said there are other ways to ensure public safety.

“Is this the appropriate mechanism that safeguards people’s rights at the same time that it provides protection?” she asked. “That’s always the magic formula — you have to do both.”