Vancouver Province Column: It’s time to hit the Granville rowdies where it hurts most — in the wallet

The Province
Monday, May 14, 2007

The Granville strip, Greater Vancouver’s avenue of good times, needs a fix — and fast — for escalating rowdiness and public disorder.

This is especially true as the coming summer tourist season and events like the 2007 Memorial Cup junior hockey tournament bring thousands of newcomers to the city.

The solution? Make the perpetrators pay for their actions through stiffer punishments — and put this change into play now.

Fairly or not, a small minority of individuals are giving Granville drinking establishments, and the law-abiding patrons who visit them, a bad name.

Late nights and early mornings on the strip have degenerated into a Romper Room of sorts for some misbehaving adults — complete with brawling, bottle-smashing and weapons infractions.

Not that daylight hours are much prettier. On a recent trip through the area, I witnessed a Paris Hilton wannabe hurling an afternoon’s worth of liquor outside of a pub — in full view of a Comfort Inn.

That’s not to take away from the overall positive transformation of Granville Street, which is enjoying a rebirth of sorts with the influx of retail and entertainment activity.

Urban planning isn’t to blame here; human behaviour, or lack thereof, is.

It’s one thing to enjoy a Saturday night at one of Granville’s many watering holes.

It’s quite another to guzzle back a dozen light beer in the passenger side of a SUV before stumbling toward last call — or skipping the bars altogether and joining the ruckus outside.

On busier nights, dozens of scraps, from one-on-one skirmishes to all-out brawls, might be breaking out.

Problem is, the undermanned Vancouver Police Department only has the resources to handle a fraction of them.

That brings us back to the troublemakers. Hitting them where it hurts the most, in the wallet, will get them to think twice before throwing the next haymaker.

“The issue is about accountability,” says downtown bar-owner Vance Campbell, a member of the VPD’s Diversity Advisory Committee and co-founder of the industry group Barwatch. “There’s no punishment for bad behaviour downtown.”

Campbell points to two recommendations made by Vancouver city councillor Kim Capri: Increase fines related to public disorder offences, and have them fixed to provincial legislation so offenders have to pay up when renewing their driver’s licence or insurance.

Campbell says that, for many of the current Granville troublemakers, a night in jail or an insignificant fine translates into a “badge of honour.” That says it all.

Bottom line: Current punishments aren’t deterring the drunken heroics of Granville’s ultimate warriors and suburban cowboys.

But some added financial grief can go a long way in quelling their actions — and ridding Granville of the black eye they are giving it.

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