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The Globe and Mail

Vancouver police ready for playoff crowds

A Vancouver Canuck fan celebrates on Granville Street after the Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver.

Ben Nelms/ Reuters/Ben Nelms/ Reuters

As the Vancouver Canucks head for their first Stanley Cup finals in 17 years, Chief Constable Jim Chu says he is learning from the worst and best of the city's history with major sporting events.

As a sergeant, Chief Chu was at ground zero of the Stanley Cup riots of 1994 - the last time the Canucks made the finals. Two hundred people were injured, and there was about $1-million in damage.

On a shelf in his office, there's a framed newspaper photo of the moments before the chaos.

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"There's always ups and downs in policing," he said Wednesday. "The most important thing is when you have something that doesn't go well, learn from it and don't have the same mistakes happen again. We learned a lot from '94."

Back then, the crowd-control unit was in the basement of a church. "They never came out to help the event until the riot broke out," the chief said.

Now they will be out on the street and "highly visible" as they interact with crowds during the games. "They will be making eye contact with people, welcoming them downtown and making sure they know the police presence is there to make sure that everybody is safe," he said.

Chief Chu said the same "meet and greet" strategy worked for the 2010 Winter Olympics, including the buoyant crowds after Canada won the gold medal in men's hockey.

"That was a wonderful day for our city. The downtown area probably had 100,000 people down there, and we policed it and made sure everyone got home safely," he said.

One tactic that won't return, he said, is the mandated early closing of liquor stores to prevent people from drinking too much.

"I am ruling that out right now," said Chief Chu, noting everything went reasonably well Tuesday night as 20,000 people gathered downtown after the Canucks' dramatic win over San Jose.

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Six people were arrested for being drunk in a public place, and there were 136 liquor pour-outs, said the chief, who suggested that all of this was satisfactory and avoids the need for liquor-store closures.

The department had 90 officers on the streets. Chief Chu said he expects to adjust those numbers but declined to be specific.

"We expected a large crowd, but it was much more than we anticipated and we got through it," he said. "The crowd was great, a great mix of people - young and old, and from all parts of the community. Based on that information and based on the influx of people that were coming in last night, we are going to increase the policing presence in the downtown area."

But the department is concerned about some funding challenges. The police budgeted $600,000 for policing the playoffs and say they may need more. "We've alerted city council there is a budget issue that's looming for us," the chief said.

He said he welcomed plans to open Rogers Arena to the public so fans can watch out-of-town Canucks' games on the giant screens. "It's great that we can create public celebration areas for people to enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs, so that's a great idea."

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