VANCOUVER – Almost a year after thousands of people smashed, looted and burned Vancouver’s downtown core, city police announced the number of accused and criminal charges are nearing record-breaking proportions.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said Tuesday police are recommending 82 charges against another 25 riot suspects, and if approved, almost 700 charges will have been laid against 225 people since last June’s mayhem.
Chu also stressed the department’s ten most wanted rioters list and pointed out they have no clues about the identity of the number one person on the list, a man filmed beating a good Samaritan in front of a department store.
“This suspect, number one, is responsible for the vicious attack on good Samaritan, Mr. Robert Mackay, in front of the Hudson’s Bay. In fact, he’s the sole person that we have not identified yet,” Chu said pointing to a picture of a man wearing a backwards baseball cap.
Thousands of videos and pictures offered to police by outraged bystanders after the riot have been combed for suspects and resulted in many of the criminal charges.
Chu also had a warning for rioters still at large.
“Just because the police haven’t contacted you yet, don’t think you’ve got away with it,” he said.
On Monday, 20-year-old Emmanuel Alviar was sentenced to one month in prison for his role in the riot, despite turning himself in and having no prior criminal record.
Chu said he doesn’t think the stiff punishment will discourage others from coming clean with police.
“I think this person, by coming forward and expressing remorse, got one month,” said Chu.
“Those rioters that won’t come forward and don’t express remorse are probably going to see a higher sentence, so there’s your inducement to come forward.”
Chu predicted the number of people charged will exceed 300 within the next few months, setting a Canadian record for charges related to one incident.
Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of the riot, which occurred after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins.
The riot caused more than $3.4 million in damage to hundreds of businesses and vehicles.
Fifty-two assaults were reported to police, 19 of those were against police and firefighters.
The riot investigation has cost $2 million, which includes the $500,000 cost of a video lab which Chu said will be used in many future investigations.
Last year, an independent review of the riot blamed “villains and thugs” and said there was not much the police or city could have done to prevent it. About 150,000 people had streamed into the downtown core to watch the game on giant video screens.
On Tuesday, Chu suggested there should be co-operative efforts from Metro Vancouver municipalities to confiscate liquor before it’s brought to the downtown core.
“One of the things that we’ve learned is that liquor interdiction has to occur,” he said. “We can’t just wait until they come downtown and see if we can get them because they can hide among the large crowds.”
Only 16 per cent of those charged so far in connection with the riot came from Vancouver itself with the majority coming from surrounding municipalities.
The VPD also announced the downsizing of their riot investigation team because, as time goes on, fewer tips to identify suspects are coming in from the public.
The unit had 70 members at its peak, and included officers from all over B.C. and as far away as Calgary.
The investigation team will be reduced to 27 by late July.