Buckle your seatbelts, Whistler, it's going to be a bumpy weekend.
The May long weekend has fast become the most dreaded weekend of the year for Whistler residents. With numbers approaching the crowds we see on New Year's Eve, residents often opt to ignore Whistler Village for the Victoria Day Holiday or else skip town altogether.
The reason is hordes of young people often come up from the Lower Mainland for the weekend. Last year the RCMP issued over 80 tickets for possession of open alcohol, 34 traffic tickets, more than ten tickets for urinating in public and over ten evictions from hotel rooms.
More serious incidents saw a fight in the Village where one participant threatened the other with a knife and police also responded to calls regarding fist fights, drug trafficking, trashed hotel rooms and underage drinking. No serious injuries were reported despite the volume of incidents.
This year, said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair of Whistler's RCMP detachment, said the force has a full operational plan in effect.
"We currently have an operational plan that is based on our experiences from previous years," he said. "We've learned from previous years what works and what doesn't. We take a zero tolerance approach to open liquor, impaired driving, that type of thing. And typically we take in members from the Lower Mainland as well.
"The May long weekend is becoming as resource-heavy as First Night. We're not quite at that point yet, but with the May long weekend, it's spread over Friday night, Saturday, and to some extent even Sunday night."
Members working the May long weekend will be performing various patrols on bikes and on foot throughout the community.
"Members will be doing patrols of the parks in the day time, then there will be enhanced foot patrols in the evening, as well as members assigned to go to parties in the subdivisions," he said. "There will be an ongoing weekend event."
Other initiatives taking place this weekend will include road and safety checks on the highway up to Whistler and anywhere else that traffic issues might arise. LeClair said that safety checks will typically look for impaired drivers, and that the Whistler RCMP will get assistance from Lower Mainland Traffic Services based out of Squamish.
Two years ago, amidst a series of gang-related incidents taking place in the Lower Mainland, members of the Integrated Gang Task Force were dispatched to Whistler to keep an eye on activity in the Village. Asked whether members of the task force would be sent here again, LeClair said the RCMP is looking into that.
"It all depends for them on what their other commitments are," he said. "They're an integrated team reporting out of the Lower Mainland district, it may be practicable for them to come up on the weekend."
Ralph Forsyth, Whistler's acting mayor, said in an interview Wednesday morning that council remains concerned about the "hooliganism" that has occurred on successive May long weekends. He said each year Whistler sees better cooperation between police and the bars, and that the scene has improved each time.
"It is getting better," Forsyth said. "Each year we have better cooperation between the police and the bars, so that is improved and the number of arrests and all that, it's on a downward trend."
Dennis Hilton, one of the owners of the Adara Hotel in Whistler Village and former chairperson of the Respect Whistler Task Force, which was formed in response to a shooting incident during May long weekend in 2006, said that Whistler needs to organize an event for the Victoria Day holiday in order to attract the guests that operators want.
"We've got all these other weekends that we do," he said. "The May 24 weekend is sort of, well, it's a party weekend, but what if it was some kind of family event. Obviously it's a bit early for bikes, but there needs to be a kind of event to attract the guests you want versus the kinds of guests you get. That's a difficulty that Whistler needs to address."
One of the measures that the Adara Hotel has taken to mitigate unruly activity is that people cannot book hotel rooms by proxy - specifically, a parent cannot book a hotel room for their children. The name on a registration card must belong to someone staying in the hotel room.
This came as part of recommendations that the Respect Whistler Task Force put out to the accommodation sector in a 2007 report. Other recommendations included enforcing the age limit of 19 years old based on underage individuals not being able to sign legal contracts.
"There are parents who say no, their children aren't old enough to drink," he said. "So they send them to Whistler, fill the rooms with alcohol and off they go."
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