Task force formed to address long weekend mayhem 

Locals frustrated by damage to village; police log 17 cases of mischief over one night

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Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has asked municipal staff to form a task force to battle the on-going mayhem the resort faces each Victoria Day long weekend.

"I met with the administrator this morning about it... and asked him to form a task force," she said, adding that the task force would meet with stakeholders including property managers, representatives of the bar and restaurant industry, police and Tourism Whistler to discuss the weekend and look at ways to prevent a repeat of this year.

Whistler saw an unprecedented level of vandalism and property crime over the weekend with windows broken and car windows smashed throughout the village and day skier lots.

"We used to have similar experiences on New Year's Eve and we were able to change that experience drastically, and we have to do that with the May two-four weekend," said Wilhelm-Morden.

"There are some obvious ideas (being discussed) already, like doing something similar to First Night over the course of the weekend, or perhaps holding a festival to welcome summer and celebrate the opening of the bike park," she said.

Wilhelm-Morden said the police had 20 members working overnight on Friday and 32 on Saturday, "and there was some success this weekend in that we had the same number of incidents this year to last, which is significantly lower than a few years ago. But that's far from good enough, and the significant change this year was the amount of property damage.

"We have our task cut out for us, and we'll get on it."

For 51 weekends a year, Whistler generally lives up to its reputation as a world-class mountain destination for recreation, sightseeing, eating, shopping and, yes, even partying. But every Victoria Day-long weekend the resort attracts young people from the Lower Mainland and elsewhere, including high school grad classes, that are prone to extreme drunkenness, fighting and vandalism.

The RCMP brings in extra resources and integrated units that specialize in gangs and traffic enforcement. It also has an operational plan in place with local hotels and nightclubs that is reviewed regularly.

The result is that things have been improving overall in terms of violence and mischief.

According to the Whistler RCMP the overall numbers of tickets, arrests and incidents last weekend was comparable to last year, though the surge in property damage this past weekend was unprecedented. Police are reviewing some security footage, but it's possible that one group of four or five men may be responsible for most or all of 17 different mischief files regarding broken windows and damaged vehicles — all of which occurred on May 18, with the first reports coming in around 2 a.m.

"This is not something we've seen before, we've never had so many incidents of vandalism," said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair. "Having this many incidents all at once, and with so many in the same location, it would indicate that the same group was responsible in a majority of the incidents, if not all of them."

In the future, he said, they would look at ways to curtail vandalism while increasing the police presence.

Part of the problem, he said, is that a lot of the troublemakers are either too young or too intoxicated to get into bars and nightclubs, and as a result they end up in the street, on the Village Stroll or causing problems in their hotels.

"The retailers I've spoken to are all pretty frustrated," said Brian Fish, an owner at Whistler Glass who helped with repairs over the weekend.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, The Grocery Store, The Lift Coffee Company and McCoo's all had windows smashed.

"We were scared to go out in the hallways, there were at least 40 kids in the hallway partying," said Kathleen Nelson, who was in Whistler with her extended family for the weekend. They were up until 4 a.m. on Saturday morning with the noise.

Nelson said they have been coming up to Whistler on the long weekend for three years and expected some partying, but were not prepared for what they experienced.

"All of them were underage, 17 or 18, that kind of thing. They were fighting amongst themselves and the language... and just falling down drunk. My poor little granddaughter, she was just terrified. At one point it was 12:30 a.m. and her mom was still trying to get her to sleep."

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