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Pitt Meadows seeks to turf gangsters from bars

The City of Pitt Meadows will ask the province to give police the authority to remove gang members from restaurants and bars.  - The New/Files
The City of Pitt Meadows will ask the province to give police the authority to remove gang members from restaurants and bars.
— image credit: The New/Files

The City of Pitt Meadows will ask the province to give police the authority to remove gang members from restaurants and bars.

Council is set to approve a resolution next week that seeks an amendment to the Liquor Control and Licensing Act to prevent anyone with gang emblems, stripes or colours from having a drink or meal at a licensed establishment.

Mayor Deb Walters says council drafted the resolution, which will be presented at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, at the request of the RCMP, who believe the move will make bars and pubs safer.

“It is really difficult for bar owners to say who can and who can’t come in. This is just another tool for police to remove some of these unwanted elements,” said Walters.

“I think anything to assist our police is something that municipalities need to look at.”

Police currently use trespass and defence of property sections of the Criminal Code to remove gangsters and their associates from bars and pubs. However, that requires the permission of bar owners, often placing them at risk.

Alberta has already amended its Gaming and Liquor Act to include a definition of a person involved in gang activity and gives police the authority to remove them from a bar or pub if they pose a threat to public safety.

Following a spate of gang violence, the City of Abbotsford added conditions to its food and liquor business permits that give police similar authority to evict gang members.

“The RCMP, along with our municipal police partners in B.C., have been pursuing several strategies to combat gang violence,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Walsh.

“Together, B.C. police believe that adopting similar liquor legislation to Alberta will assist us to be as proactive as possible in dealing with gang violence and to do the very best we can to keep our citizens safe from gang violence.”

The proposed changes would mirror the Bar Watch program, which is currently in place locally at the Billy Miner Pub, By Bailey’s, Roosters Country Cabaret, Planet Ice, The Witch of Endor, Golden Ears Pub, Haney Public House and Caddy Shack.

Bar Watch members prohibit patrons who wear gang “colours” or gang support wear.

Sgt. Bill Whalen, with B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, believes the Bar Watch program, which started in Vancouver and eventually spread to the suburbs, has contributed to a drop in gang violence.

The uniformed gang task force, which is part of the CFSEU, often seizes weapons and drugs from known gang members during patrols of bars and pubs.

Whalen said Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are not immune from gang activity and uniformed gang task force officers often visit bars and pubs in both municipalities to keep tabs on gang members, including the Hell’s Angels, United Nations gang and Red Scorpions.

“Citizens should be able to go shopping, or go to the pub and have a burger and a beer and not be confronted by organized crime members or gang members who are making them uncomfortable by flaunting their colours,” he said.

“We are taking back the local establishments for the average person.”

Pitt Meadows will be seeking support for its resolution at the regional level before forwarding it to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

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