Ridge Meadows RCMP want to build on the success of a program that’s already making many bars and pubs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows more safe and secure for customers.
Since the program was revived in April 2011, Barwatch Ridge Meadows has attracted 50 per cent of the liquor establishments in Maple Ridge and three in Pitt Meadows.
“There is only room for improvement. We are hoping to get to 100 per cent and 2013 is the year to get there,” said Insp. Dave Fleugel.
Ridge Meadows Bar Watch has eight founding members: The Billy Miner, By Bailey’s, Roosters Country Cabaret, Planet Ice, The Witch of Endor, Golden Ears Pub, Haney Public House and Caddy Shack.
Fleugel hopes to eventually attract every place that serves liquor to sign up as a member, including restaurants.
The goal of this program is to discourage, and ultimately prevent, patrons from behaving in a way that endangers others, or staff and police.
The key component of the program is the voluntary participation of the bar owners and operators, as well sharing information about patrons who pose a threat or create repeated problems.
The program also prohibits patrons from wearing gang colours or support wear inside bars and carrying weapons.
“This is not only about the gang issue. It’s about public safety in general,” said Fleugel.
“The best way to get compliance is for people to see themselves as part of the solution.”
Since the program was embraced two years ago, RCMP have seen relationships improves. Bar owners and managers don’t hesitate to contact police if there are problems and police know who to contact when they identify problems at licensed establishments.
“We can take care of problems with them before they get out of control,” said Fleugel.
“It used to be very adversarial and now it’s much more collaborative.”
This year a letter will be sent to every licensed establishment in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to encourage them to join Barwatch.
Fleugel said police will follow the letter with a visit from a uniformed officer.
“Sometimes having a personal conversation and contact can have more of an effect,” he added.
Police believe Barwatch is successful because it acts as a deterrent and keeps patrons who are troublemakers at bay.
“It sends a message that the bar owners are working with police to ensure there are no problems.”
The unarmed officers who’ve been patrolling the streets of Maple Ridge since 2008 may see their mandate expanded following a review of the program by RCMP.
RCMP’s national headquarters have completed an assessment of the program that was first piloted in B.C. in 2008. The program has since expanded across Canada and is being embraced by other agencies, including Vancouver police.
Ridge Meadows was one of the first detachment’s to use the unarmed officers, who are often seen downtown, in uniforms distinguished by a red arm band.
Insp. Dave Fleugel said the review by headquarters has determined there may be ways to enhance the presence of CSOs, including using them to run community programs.
“The CSOs are definitely an asset to Maple Ridge,” said Fleugel.
Cnsts. Steve Terrillon, Paul Jeffery and Alexsandra Nenadic have been working with Ridge Meadows RCMP since 2008. Each CSO has a baton, pepper spray and remains in communication with RCMP dispatch via radio while on patrol.
The CSOs do community outreach work and are key to crime prevention.
They conduct foot patrol, manage the new Business Watch crime prevention program, the anti-graffiti program and often give presentations on Internet safety and drug awareness in schools.