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Policing the Canucks' playoff run: Can we be trusted with fun?

It's time for Vancouver to revive its Games spirit and get its street party on.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, the Olympics were a success. In 2011, the Canucks might just go all the way this time. Vancouver, now’s the time to grow up.

Millions of people drink and party in the streets in cities like London, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Berlin. Isn’t it time to let Vancouverites in on the fun?

From the perspective of the podium, the 2010 Winter Games were a roaring success. Canada’s athletes won more medals than in any previous games in history.

For the people of Vancouver, the best part of the Games was undoubtedly the festive atmosphere on the street. People couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was that massive crowds lined the streets to give endless high-fives to flag-waving dudes in hockey jerseys.

The city is buzzing once again, this time in anticipation of the Canucks' playoff run. But while some of us can’t wait to see the streets of Vancouver erupt into the best party since the Olympics, the Vancouver police can’t to wait to discuss the financial consequences of a Canucks successful playoff run (the Vancouver Courier recently pegged the VPD’s cost for crowd control at nearly $650,000). There are even rumors the VPD is resurrecting the idea of closing downtown liquor stores so people can’t drink in the streets.

The underlying premise, of course, is that Vancouverites can’t be trusted to behave themselves in public. Hence, the VPD will pour thousands of police in the street to pour out thousands of beers.

There is, of course, an alternative to spending that amount of money just to end up with sticky sidewalks. The police could expend their time and energy dealing with people who are actually causing problems – and leave everyone else to enjoy the party.

This is what most cities around the world do. The average Thursday night in London, Barcelona, Amsterdam or Berlin produces far more revelers (both drunk and sober) than Vancouver did on the busiest night of the games. Yet those cities don’t dispatch thousands of police into the streets to crack down on anyone committing an AOA: anything other than ambling. In those cities, police don’t bother people who are drinking, unless those people are bothering others (who may or may not also be drinking).

Each August, police gear up for the millions of people that will flood the streets of West London for the Notting Hill Carnival, where you can buy a cold beer for around $3 from vendors who fill their garbage cans with ice and tall cans and hawk their wares from their front steps. People who are threatening (whether drunk or sober) are removed from the party, leaving those who wish to party to carry beers and drink rum out of coconuts.

Perhaps this whole idea that there would be rioting if Vancouver allowed people to drink in the streets is overly cautious. It is not certainly not borne out by recent evidence. As the Olympics ended and the crowds went home, the only anarchy in the streets had been caused by, well, some anarchists.

At the end of April, millions of Dutch people will pack the streets of Amsterdam to celebrate their queen’s birthday. They buy plastic beer mugs and spend the day watching parades and listening to street DJs while refilling at beer gardens in the streets. If the VPD would lighten up, Vancouverites who would like to "go Dutch" could celebrate the Canucks playoff run in the streets with something other than a can of orange juice.

Joshua Hergesheimer is a freelance journalist. You can find his website here:

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