An increase in security measures at a cultural public festival this weekend has some Vancouverites feeling less safe than usual.
This Sunday marked the ninth annual Italian Day on the Drive, a festival that shuts down traffic on 14 blocks of Commercial Drive to celebrate Italian culture. But it was the first year large trucks were used as blockades and that police officers were armed with machine guns rather than pistols.
Many festival-goers shared pictures of the armed VPD officers on social media in disbelief that these measures were necessary.
Why the need for big guns at Italian Days on the Drive @VancouverPD ? ♀️ as a local resident it makes me feel less safe.— Lise Monique (@lisemonique_) June 10, 2018
Others commended the city for recognizing how recent attacks at public events around the globe called for heightened security.
Effective temporary measures by @CityofVancouver prevent vehicle incursions at 2018 Italian Day Festival on #CommercialDrive in #EastVan. Participants in this street festival may feel reasonably secure that a tragedy like #TorontoVanAttack won't be perpetrated here. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/5jPcB7hbuM— Nicholas R Gallant (@NRG_BC) June 10, 2018
At Vancouver's Italian Days festivities, an estimated 200,000 people come out to enjoy the music performances, vendors, food trucks and beer gardens.
But one Burnaby resident was quick to point out on Twitter that Hats Off Day — a festival held one week prior — remained safe without additional security measures being implemented.
Hats Off Day was only 2 weeks ago with over 100k people in the streets. We didn’t have any police armed like this.— Jenn (@Destinyshopes) June 11, 2018
Sgt. Jason Robillard, media spokesperson from the VPD, says it’s common for him to receive a high volume of questions surrounding police presence after public festivals.
"We typically do not share detail about our operations plans or tactics, including the number of officers deployed or type of equipment used, as that would be counterproductive and potentially unsafe for the public and our officers," Robillard wrote in a follow up email.
"Specifically, over the past two years, we have added extra resources, including equipping some officers with carbine rifles and using heavy vehicle barriers at events with large crowds, in response to world events."
The VPD's emergency operational planning section is responsible for preparing for more than 1,000 events in Vancouver annually.