Vancouver Police have partnered with Metro Vancouver Transit Police and Barwatch in a public awareness campaign about unwanted sexual touching. It reminds offenders that groping is a crime that could result in an arrest and charges.

The Hands Off! campaign will see posters placed in some Vancouver bars and on the transit system throughout Vancouver, and should serve a warning to anyone who still thinks it’s ok to touch another person without their consent.

“We are concerned about the number of groping incidents we are seeing in the city. Almost everyone has been – or knows someone who has been – grabbed or fondled by a stranger in a public place,” says Sergeant Steve Addison, VPD. “It appears that some people don’t understand that groping is a crime. Anyone who does this could be arrested and charged.”

VPD created Hands Off! due to an alarming number of groping incidents that still get reported to police. While unwanted sexual touching can happen anywhere, it’s most prevalent in crowded places like bars, clubs, buses, and rapid transit. Barwatch – an association of bars, restaurants and nightclubs that aims to promote safety for customers – has paid to print and install posters in establishments throughout Vancouver. TransLink has donated space at transit stations, on buses, and in SkyTrain and Canada Line cars.

Since the beginning of 2018, VPD officers have investigated 174 reports of unwanted sexual contact from strangers in public places. Transit Police investigated 75 more incidents on buses and SkyTrains in the city during that time.

“Despite our constant efforts to reduce incidents of groping, these continue to be a serious issue on the transit system,” says Sergeant Clint Hampton, Transit Police. “Offenders need to realize that these are all sexual assaults, and anyone who commits an act of groping is a sexual offender.”

Barwatch’s Kendra Belsheim said the campaign is about creating a safe environment for staff and customers.

“Everyone who comes to a restaurant or bar deserves to feel safe, and nobody should have to worry about being grabbed by a stranger,” Belsheim says.

VPD encourages all victims or witness of crime to call 9-1-1 immediately.