Edmonton police propose mandatory ID scanners at bars

An ID is scanned at the entrance to MKT in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
An ID is scanned at the entrance to MKT in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Global News

EDMONTON  — An Edmonton police proposal to have more ID scanners in city bars is receiving mixed reviews among owners.

Personal identification scanners have been in use in Edmonton bars and nightclubs for over a decade and are voluntary, with about 30 to 40 per cent of establishments using them. They could soon be mandatory in all bars with a capacity of more than 85 people.

The movement is being spearheaded by an EPS officer who used to work on Jasper Avenue at night. Const. Aaron Ward says ID scanners could help crack down on crime in busy nightlife districts such as Whyte Avenue, West Edmonton Mall and downtown.

When an ID such as a drivers licence is scanned, it brings up information about the card holder, including if there have been any issues at other establishments. Grant Sanderson, the general manager of MKT in Old Strathcona, encourages them.

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“It deters from gang activity,” said Sanderson. “If a gang member was at another place then tried to come here, it would give us that information which we would contact police with.”

Ward agrees.

“Files don’t get closed because of identity issues where we can’t identify the accused because they’ve left the scene,” he said.

Not all bar owners agree about the need for the devices. Matthew Foster, manager of The Buckingham bar on Whyte Avenue, agrees that the scanners help at bigger bars but doesn’t feel they’re necessary at smaller ones.

“We don’t have a lot of issues, and when we are busy we have bouncers at the doors,” said Foster.

Ward says he’d like to see the scanners at all establishments, no matter the capacity.

“I like to see equality, which means everybody scans.”

Edmonton police hope to have the system in place before the new downtown arena opens in 2016.

With files from Jessica Kent, Global News

NOTE: This story was originally published on April 14, 2015. It was updated on April 16, 2015, to remove the attached video and a mistaken reference to the Alberta Privacy Commission. No such organization exists.