Surrey Mounties say they are heading into largely uncharted waters, as local Canucks celebrations now involve at least two large crowds.
Over the past several years, Surrey RCMP and Delta Police have watched over a large spontaneous crowd that gathers after Canucks’ games at Scott Road and 72 Avenue. That group is largely made up of people who spill out from nearby homes in the Newton area.
Now the city is holding an organized event for people who want to watch the game at Central City plaza, which can accommodate about 5,000 people.
If game nights goes as well as Wednesday did, everything should be fine.
Police say a crowd of 2,000 people at the city’s celebration site was completely well-behaved, as was the mob of about 3,500 at 72 Avenue and Scott Road, which saw only one arrest for a fight.
In charge of ensuring the celebrations remain peaceful is Surrey RCMP Cpl. Drew Grainger, who manages operational planning for special events.
He scheduled two dozen officers to patrol the Central City site during the first game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. Going forward, that may change.
“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 are expected to increasingly draw on police resources as the Stanley Cup final progresses. The policing costs are expected to 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 wraps up in four games.
If it goes seven games, that figure could double.
Delta Police helps with the crowd at 72 Avenue and Scott Road and estimates it costs between $3,000 and $6,000 in overtime per game. By the end of the series, policing could cost Delta more than $50,000, according to Delta Police Sgt. Paul Eisenzimmer.
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 final.
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.
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 in the crowd, shaking hands and making eye contact.
“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,” Grainger said.
The message to the public is that police are celebrating as well, but they have a job to do in making sure everyone is responsible and safe.
Eisenzimmer added the public, too has changed since the ill-fated celebrations in 1994.
“I think our crowds have changed in the last 16 to 17 years,” Eisenzimmer said. “The Olympics taught people how to celebrate without being stupid.”