Hands Off! campaign launched in Vancouver on Nov. 26, 2019 by Vancouver Police, Barwatch and Metro Vancouver Transit Police. (Police handout)

Hands Off! campaign targets gropers on public transit, in bars in Vancouver

More than 250 reports of groping have been investigated in Vancouver since 2018

Groping is a crime and the Vancouver police are launching a new campaign aimed at reminding offenders it’s not OK to touch someone without their consent.

In partnership with Metro Vancouver Transit Police and the Barwatch organization, the Vancouver depatchment launched the Hands Off! campaign Tuesday, following an alarming number of recent groping incidents, said Sgt. Steve Addison.

“Almost everyone has been – or knows someone who has been – grabbed or fondled by a stranger in a public place,” he said. “It appears that some people don’t understand that groping is a crime. Anyone who does this could be arrested and charged.”

ALSO READ: Surrey cops looking for Guildford groping suspect

Since the beginning of 2018, police in Vancouver have investigated 174 reports of unwanted sexual contact from strangers in public places, while transit police looked into 75 further incidents on buses and SkyTrains.

Unwanted touching can happen anywhere, but authorities say it’s most prevalent in crowded places like bars, clubs, buses, and trains.

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

The campaign will take the form of posters in restaurants and nightclubs throughout the city, as well as in SkyTrain cars and at bus stations.

Vancouver police urge anyone who falls victim to groping or who witnesses it to call 911.

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