Tightened security measures coming to George Street

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Barb Sweet
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Patrons walk along the George Street Strip. The George Street Association has been on a fact-finding mission to Las Vegas, looking at new technologies to tighten security on the iconic street. The move follows the installation of surveillance cameras (inset) by the RNC last year. — Photos by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Security measures on George Street are going to get tighter. The George Street Association was in Las Vegas this week investigating systems, including capabilities for information sharing that would allow bars to exchange information on troublesome patrons.

Executive director Seamus O'Keefe said there were several systems at the Nightclub and Bar Convention and Tradeshow.

A new system of scanning IDs would not only catch fake ones, but transmit information to other bars about patrons who are bounced out. The idea is if someone is tossed out of one bar, the other bars on George Street would have the information and could use their discretion whether or not to admit the patron to their clubs.

In April 2011, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary installed outdoor video surveillance cameras along the popular party street in downtown St. John's.

Various bars, of course, have had their own inside video security systems for years.

The proposed new security measures are at the due diligence stage, O'Keefe said.

"I think it's another layer of the protection," he said, adding the intent is to protect patrons as well as staff and performers.

"It's pieces of the puzzle we are putting together. ... We're not saying there's an issue right now. But we think we need to be ahead of the curve on this type of technology. It's not a reaction to any particular incident. "It's a reaction to the times."

The systems are in use in various entertainment districts around the continent.

O'Keefe said the exact details will be worked out and the timelines for installation aren't known yet. The overall scanning might include cherrypicking people or scanning all IDs. There is likely to be a request for proposals on the new system.

"We would work with the RNC and the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) to make sure what we are doing is consistent (with) policies and not restricting private rights," O'Keefe said.

Customers could also be rewarded with VIP cards through the system.

He acknowledged the street has gained somewhat of a rougher reputation in recent years, but he said things are changing.

"I truly believe it's an iconic destination that rivals any entertainment district in Canada and the U.S. We need to do everything we can to protect that brand," O'Keefe said.

Festivals on the street attract as many as 40,000 people.

Meanwhile, the association is also trying to solve the conundrum of not enough taxis at closing time, which clogs up the street and nearby areas.

O'Keefe said it's considering the possibility of contracting Metrobus or private operators and examining how other municipalities tackle the problem.

Between 1-4 a.m., there is a shortage of cabs in the district as patrons fan out around the downtown trying to get transportation. They're even filling hotel lobbies, O'Keefe said.

St. John's Coun. Tom Hann, who heads the St. John's Transportation Commission, said there has been some preliminary discussion about the bar association contracting a shuttle from Metrobus.

But he said there are concerns about safety issues and whether or not security will be required.

And there's the logistical conundrum of where the customers would be dropped off.

As well, drivers may not want to work early hour shifts, Hann said, noting there are private operators with buses who may be able to take it on.

He acknowledged the issue of bar goers jostling for taxis and the value of the street to tourism. Hann suggested council is willing to try to help solve the issues.

O'Keefe noted it hasn't been a year yet for the George Street cameras. But he said the association has gone to the RNC a number of times requesting footage be reviewed.

The case of a violent attack last fall captured on the George Street cameras is due back in court next month in what is believed to be the first charge resulting from the outdoor video surveillance system.

According to the RNC, there are 45 other cases currently being investigated as a result of incidents on George Street that have been picked up by the surveillance cameras.

RNC Chief Robert Johnston will speak in detail to members of the media later this month about the use of the cameras.

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Organizations: George Street Association, Nightclub and Bar Convention, Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor NLC Transportation Commission

Geographic location: George Street, St. John's, Las Vegas Canada U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Allada Bushut
    June 04, 2014 - 00:11

    So, if my car was robbed and someone took my wallet and ID.... They try to use it downtown, and my information gets scanned? So if I'm down with my new legit ID... I'm basically screwed? Instead of paying all this money for the system...Why not train bouncers more methods to detect if someone is using a fake ID...

  • Allada Bushut
    June 04, 2014 - 00:08

    So, if my car was robbed and someone took my wallet and ID.... They try to use it downtown, and my information gets scanned? So if I'm down with my new legit ID... I'm basically screwed? Instead of paying all this money for the system...Why not train bouncers more methods to detect if someone is using a fake ID... You can scan an ID, but if the bouncer assumes the person in the picture is correct, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE? But I'm glad the George Street association flew to Vegas to investigate systems useful in NL, (24hr Casino's and bars)) and city taxes may not have paid for the trip, but all bars on George contribute to this fund that paid for a trip to vegas!!! Money well spent! So what else ya got besides Scanners? That can not be it??? How about having some cops walking the streets instead of driving up them every 30 min.

  • Tom
    March 18, 2012 - 19:29

    I hope someone from this association reads this before you encourage any of your partners to buy these services, but every court in the country that has been petitioned to ban these systems by individuals who claim invasion of privacy has sided with the complaintant. BC and Alberta has ruled that our new privacy law makes it illigal to use any device to scan and or store a patrons personal information. It has not been challenged up to the supreme court at this time due to no district challenging a provincial court ruling on this issue. Look into it before you start buying these systems. I can promise you will find yourself in court on the first card that is demanded to be swiped. Get a lawyer to look into it. You will loose. Money too.

  • NO BUSSES
    March 18, 2012 - 19:00

    There are those who are not fit to walk cause they drink too much, I hope no one runs them over or they collapse while they are walking from the bus stop to their houses. Then have the young ladies walk by themselves from the bus stop to their house, just wait for a sicko to park next to the bus stop to wait for a victim. Then you have the quiet neighbourhoods being aroused as the drunks get off the bus to walk through on the way home. Many "patrons" hang out taxis (or not hang out) and throw up. Many urinate (male or female) all over George Street poles, cans, buildings, and everything else. Many eat in taxis and leave pizza trays and fries and gravy behind. I can only image what a state the busses and walking routes would be in, not fit. There is no problem with taxis downtown, so what if they have to wait 30 - 60 minutes for a taxi to get to them, they will be doing the same for a bus. Those "patrons" calling for buses are just wants to save the price of a beer off the price on their ride home so they can dirnk more. Save the George Street mess for the taxis and don't spread the noise and staggers in residential areas.

  • Trump Or Monkey
    March 18, 2012 - 08:59

    Just imagiane how rowdy,crowded and disgusting a bus from George Street would be.It would end up being like a party bus.People would be continuing the party on the way home.

  • Trump Or Monkey
    March 18, 2012 - 08:53

    Bahahhaha This was nothing more than a free trip for the George Street association to Vegas, at the expense of tax payers likely.Scanning cards and transmitting it to other bars.Sounds like science fiction.Vip cards for the bar scene is laughable.Keep up the good work City Of St.John's.This is the crap they waste money on all while O'keefe says my property taxes my increase by 2-300%.What a joke!

    • pete
      March 18, 2012 - 15:44

      its not city tax that payed for this trip!~

  • allforit
    March 18, 2012 - 08:36

    The bouncer sees your address either way when they ID you so why not scan it. I doubt they keep your address or anything else on file that's personnal they're mostly going to be looking at your picture and wether or not you got kicked out of the bar or if the ID was already turned away at another bar. Bars are already allowed to take your ID if they suspect identity theft so why not have an electronic record of it? It saves time in the bar lines because there wont be as many people arguing with the bouncer, and it will majorly cut down on the underage people.

  • Devil's Advocate
    March 18, 2012 - 08:08

    "...Scanning ID's is the norm in a lot of places" Yeah, like 1930s Germany. Ihre Papiere Bitte. Our forefathers gave their lives to stop crap like this and most of you people just swallow it up under the guise of safety.

  • Gordon
    March 18, 2012 - 05:58

    A few buses at night would solve the transportation problem easily enough. You can even paint the buses and call them "The George Street Express" as part of a branding campaign. It would be especially useful on cold or rainy nights (most nights!). As for warm summer nights, I used to walk home to Kilbride or Cowan Heights.

  • evan
    March 17, 2012 - 18:46

    @shane. Theres a big difference between a police officer getting your personal info and a guy who owns a bar getting and storing it. There are major privacy and identity theft issues here. Under privacy legislation a business owner is only allowed to request and store information that is necessary to the service they are providing. I don't see why a bar owner needs my address on file.

    • SHANE
      March 18, 2012 - 20:57

      There are major privacy and identity theft issues here? There are identity theft issues without this system, if a 16 year old enters a bar with 'John Doe's' ID then THAT is identity theft. The under ager is stealing the identity of somebody else to enter a bar.

  • Anon
    March 17, 2012 - 16:19

    Nate, prohibition is not the answer...

  • Nasty Nate
    March 17, 2012 - 12:10

    Simple answer to this problem - Prohibition. Look at all the social and economic issues that would solve in one sweep. But the drunks love to have everyone else pay for their mistakes, so just keep on raping us and raising taxes to pay for a few. Make sense.

    • Carol Ann Rogers
      March 18, 2012 - 08:40

      Your are entitled toyoru opinion but I would ask you choose your wording better, raping, was not a good choice. Safety is everyone's concern. A bus service past 11:00 would be most beneficial.

    • Help me drink and provide me a bus
      March 18, 2012 - 19:04

      Yup, they want their drunken sprees paid for by the taxpayers - busses!

  • Greg
    March 17, 2012 - 11:31

    A bus service would be a great idea..... would only need a few buses leaving at 2am and 3am on Friday and Saturday nights going to the major spots in town, charge everyone 2 bucks a pop to get on the bus. Would save the patrons a lot of money and would meet the goal of solving the taxi problem. People would enjoy down-town St. John's a lot more often if it didn't cost $20-25 each way from Cowan Heights.

  • shane
    March 17, 2012 - 10:26

    @ noy likely i guess i can use the same excuse if i ever get pulled over by a rnc/rcmp officer ... u want my driver's license? not likely! im a legal driver and with insurance and thats all you need to know and you dont need my personal info lol

    • Steve
      March 17, 2012 - 11:32

      The RNC/ RCMP have the legal right to check your driver's licence. Bar owners have the right to examine your ID to see if you are of legal age to enter. What is their legal right to collect and store your personal information? With identity theft being what it is, do you really trust the average bar owner/manager/doorman to keep that recorded image of your ID safe?

    • SHANE
      March 18, 2012 - 20:51

      @ Steve it was a joke! Stop being so serious. Although if you want to be that way I guess I'll have to reply. The bar owners will simply be keeping a list of names who enter in and out the bar. The orange store's in the city have already began scanning ID's. The most personal information on an ID is your name, dob, address (which is not always correct) and your drivers class, if those things are personal to you than perhaps you shouldn't go out to a night club.

  • not likely
    March 17, 2012 - 07:56

    scanning my Id to enter a club, not likely. Im legal age thats all that matters, dont need my personal info scanned.

    • Susie
      March 17, 2012 - 08:56

      To "Not Likely"... you know your age doesn't mean everybody else does....

    • Rod
      March 17, 2012 - 09:38

      Scanning ID's is the norm in a lot of places - I first saw this in Winnipeg several years ago. All the big bars there scanned your ids .... I have seen it done in a lot of places since. The device takes an image of your ID and recorded your face while entering. It was a pretty cool system. If the patrons want to enter they will abide - if not there are lots of other establishments they can go too! Just as a side note ID's are not just for verifying age :)

    • BR
      March 17, 2012 - 12:00

      Then it's not likely you'll get in !!!!