Have you heard of Barwatch? It’s a Vancouver program designed to keep gangsters and drug dealers out of bars and nightclubs in the city.
But it’s not active in Surrey, and the program’s Chair, former Vancouver Police officer Curtis Robinson, says that’s only helping the gangsters.
LISTEN: Curtis Robinson explains how Barwatch works, and how it could help Surrey
“Its a safety initiative. If you want to go down and enjoy your evening at nightclub or a pub or a bar, you have the right not to be sitting next to somebody that has a contract on their life.”
Robinson says the program, which started in 2007, is currently active in about 30 clubs and bars, exists solely within the city of Vancouver. It operates independently, but in cooperation with police. He says several nearby jurisdictions have taken the name, but refused to fully implement the parts of the program that work.
“They claim to be running a program and in fact they’re not. And this is something that doesn’t go over well with us because if you’re not going to do the job of zero tolerance then you shouldn’t be using the name Barwatch.”
So what does that mean?
Robinson says if you are involved in violent criminal activities, a gangster or associate, or have a drug or weapons conviction you’ll be automatically barred from any Barwatch bar in the city. Permanently.
He says patrons need to show two pieces of ID when they enter, which go into a system. If you’re determined to be involved in violent crime you’ll be flagged… and your identity will also be circulated to all other Barwatch bars. You’ll then be denied entry to any of them.
Robinson says the system is designed to protect staff, so that someone making $12 an hour doesn’t have to try and eject an accused murderer.
“Staff are trained to say ‘well you know you’re on the Barwatch program, we would Prefer you not to enter. But some of these people don’t listen, because that’s the way they are. They think ‘I live a rock star lifestyle, and I’m going to get away with whatever I like.’ And when they come in there is a process in place where the police dept. understand, and within a few minutes the police are going to show up and target you and ask you to leave, and if you don’t you’re going to get arrested.”
“Vancouver has become a very unfriendly place for gangsters.”
Robinson says Barwatch, in combination with a focused effort by the VPD to target gangsters, has paid off big in the last decade.
“We know from intelligence information that these people have made comments that they just can’t stand coming to Vancouver, because they’re embarrassed, they can’t got to a club, they can’t go to a bar.”
Why not Surrey?
So why doesn’t Surrey, which is struggling with gang problems, implement the program?
Robinson says it’s because the force’s executive officers and legal counsel refuse to embrace the program.
“[They] do not allow their members to apply this program, but they allow their places to use the word Barwatch. Which to us in Vancouver is like wearing a fake Rolex watch. Either you do or you don’t.”
Robinson says the force’s leadership is trying to use 1980s solutions to deal with 2016 problems – depriving street level officers of the tools that would allow them to walk into a bar or restaurant and eject a known gang member.
“It’s about aggression, and it’s about having a backbone, and it’s about getting off your backside and deciding that enough is enough, and that the rights of the people, the taxpaying citizens that obey the law, trump the rights of the people that are coke and heroin dealers.”