City police clarifying stance on gang colours

THUMPERRRR's picture

Initiative includes 21 local businesses

Despite an unclear initial message, and some rabid social media backlash, North Bay Police Chief Shawn Devine is confident that the "No Gang Colours/No Gang Clothing" program is achieving what was intended: to keep patrons and staff of local restaurants, bars and nightclubs safer.

Social media commenters overwhelmingly derided the plan in August when it was presented to the public through the media. Accusations that the ban was an infringement on constitutional rights, as well as prejudicial in nature were heard.

Devine set the record straight Thursday at police headquarters. He apologized to local business owners for the negative publicity and vowed that a more effective media partnership would avoid the mass hysteria following the August announcement.

No Gang Colours
A No Gangs/No Colours sign (left) and a Hells Angels Ontario cut

Devine unequivocally stated that the initiative is aimed solely at outlaw motorcycle gangs and their associates. Not motorcycle enthusiasts. Or girl guides. Or sports teams.

In reference to the proposed biker rally that would take place in Thompson Park next Canada Day weekend, Devine indicated that the NBPS would be interested in implementing the same program for that event.

"There's always that confusion for the public between someone who rides a bike and organized crime at these events. The odd thing about these criminals, is they identify themselves with their patches and rockers," for law enforcement, said Devine. There's a huge difference between a patched outlaw biker and a "group of veterans who like to ride Harleys."

Det. Staff Sgt. Len Isnor, a veteran officer and expert witness on motorcycle gangs presented the latest trends in the outlaw world to his law enforcement colleagues Thursday morning, and in the afternoon followed up with a session with establishment owners and the media.

Isnor clarified that although North Bay does not have a Hells Angels chapter within its limits, various satellite biker groups do operate in town, mainly in the drug trafficking trade. Said Isnor, "The Hells Angels control the drugs in North Bay."

Said Devine on the lack of a Hells Angels chapter in North Bay, "I think the smallness of the town, and the fact that a lot of these clubs don't want to make the front page of the paper, has kept them out. But, again, that does not mean that they are not in control of what goes on here."

The Voyager Inn part-owners, Tracy Sloan and Geoff Richardson, admit they have had some customers speak out against the program, and that a better job of educating the public would have smoothed the waters.


However, the two feel that when it comes to their establishment, they have no regrets about the long-term viability of the initiative. Said Sloan, "It's never been a problem, but it's something that could have been."

"This is a North Bay-wide initiative, it's nothing personal. You'll see the same sign all over. But, hanging the sign makes us look rough," to some, continued Sloan, "and education would have helped that."

"We may have lost business over this, because of the misunderstanding. It would have been nice to have more communication before the implementation of the program," but we are moving forward with it, said Richardson, agreeing that while all are welcome, keep the colours out.

Bonnie Zufelt whose Partners Billiards & Bowling felt the brunt of the social media negativity when the initial announcement was made, was issued a personal apology by Chief Devine. Zufelt volunteered her business as a sort of example for the masses and felt stung by some of the public's feedback.

Zufelt still believes in the program, despite the hiccups, saying, "It's about creating a safe environment for our staff and customers, that's what's important."

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