Whistler is for the most part a peaceful town. We've had just one recorded murder in something like 40 years, and violent crime is thankfully rare.
Property crime and the theft of skis, bikes, electronics and rent money through Craigslist scams are a major issue for police, as are crimes related to drug and alcohol — the result of such a young population and the fact that a lot of people come to Whistler to party. There are missing persons' stories, some of which turn tragic.
Police in Whistler can answer over 100 calls per week and in busier weeks police will open 150 files covering everything from accidental 911 calls to traffic tickets. The week surrounding New Year's 2012 the RCMP opened 187 files.
Here's a list of the stories we thought were most interesting from 2012, including stories that gained attention from outside the community.
Gang members targeted in motorhome explosion
A pair of gang members known to police were the victims of a bomb attempt on Jan. 16 as they slept in their motorhome in the Callaghan Valley. They had been in the area for a week to snowmobile when an explosion rocked their RV just before midnight.
At first they thought that a propane tank had exploded, but it soon became apparent that the explosion occurred outside the vehicle. The RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit and Forensic Identification Section attended.
One of the males sustained minor injuries to one hand but did not seek medical attention.
The bomber is still at large, but one of the targeted men, 47-year-old Thomas Gisby, was shot to death at a Starbucks in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico on April 30 where he was reportedly hiding out after the bombing. Gisby had been associated with the Dhak group, and was with an associate of a Hell's Angels member in Mexico who was also wounded in the attack.
Whistler Blackcomb part of graffiti crime spree
After discovering some graffiti etched into the glass of a Peak 2 Peak gondola cabin on Jan. 19, Whistler Blackcomb offered a reward of a season's pass to anyone who could identify the vandals responsible. The cost of replacing the glass was estimated at $10,000.
By the end of the next week it was clear that the suspects were likely on a ski trip, with similar reports of graffiti reported in Squamish, at Seymour Mountain and at resorts in Rossland and Nelson. One of the tags reads "Bord" or possibly "Burd."
Limo driver killed in head-on
The death of limo driver Shafiqur Rahman in a head-on collision with a 19-year-old Calgary man driving a pickup truck on Jan. 28 shocked the community, especially as it was discovered that the man — identified as Jacob Mitzimberg — was drinking and may have been on LSD when he crossed the centre line to strike Rahman head-on. Making matters even worse, Mitzimberg reportedly told police after the accident that there were explosives in his truck, something that complicated the initial investigation and extended the highway closure to 10 hours.
The suspect, now 20, was charged in October with counts of impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
RCMP takes on issue of safe drinking
After two young people died while wandering alone into the woods after nights spent partying, the Whistler RCMP initiated talks with several stakeholders in the community to create a safe drinking campaign. The talks are still underway, but as a result of the deaths of DJ Mike Grefner (missing Jan. 17, found on March 10) and David Christian (missing Mar. 18 and found Mar. 21) Whistler Blackcomb is promoting the buddy system for all of its new employees, while door staff at bars are ensuring that people that are intoxicated and alone are finding their way to the taxi loop and bus stops.
2012 also saw the launch of a new Walk Safe program, which was created after Australian national Eleanor Reinecke was struck by a taxi and killed while walking along the side of the highway in January 2011. Walk Safe kits include information on how to get home safely as well as high-visibility reflectors that people can carry with them at night to be more visible to vehicles.
Police assist SPCA in sled dog deaths
One of the biggest stories to rock Whistler in recent years was the revelation that a sled dog company manager, Robert Fawcett, had personally slaughtered dozens of his dogs after a decline in business meant he did not have the means to properly care for them.
The slaughter took place in April of 2010 and the story was reported in January 2011 after it was discovered that the suspect in the case had applied for Worker's Compensation benefits as a result of his mental anguish. In 2012, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) took the lead on the investigation, using local RCMP resources. In May they exhumed the dogs and discovered the carcasses of 54 dogs, as well as evidence that they didn't all die quickly and humanely.
The case went to trial and Fawcett plead guilty to causing unnecessary pain and suffering to nine of the dogs. In November Fawcett was sentenced to three years of probation, a $1,725 fine and 200 hours of community service, and banned from owning a firearm for 10 years. The SPCA and other animal rights advocates condemned the sentence as light.
Bystanders save two lives in separate incidents
A trip to the Sloquet Hot Springs proved eventful for four Abbotsford men that intervened in back-to-back lifesaving efforts.
The first call to the RCMP came in at 8:45 p.m. on Nov. 17, regarding a woman who entered the Sloquet River to cool off after sitting in the hot pool and was caught up in the current. She was carried several hundred metres downstream before she caught herself on some debris. Four men worked together to pull her to safety and performed first aid. She was hypothermic and had badly bruised knees and legs from banging them off of rocks in the river.
The men were able to warm her up and called the police in Pemberton as well as ambulance services.
Meanwhile, as the rescuers were on their way to the remote location, they received a call from the Chilliwack RCMP after a Spot rescue beacon was activated in the area at roughly 9:30 p.m. There was a second emergency call from the same area regarding a male pinned under an ATV that had flipped on the road. The four men who helped the woman in the river also came to the aid of the man, lifting the ATV off of him and providing first aid.
The police arrived at 10:54 p.m. with emergency services, and the injured female was taken to the Pemberton Clinic and then sent off to Lions Gate hospital. The driver of the ATV, an 18-year-old Abbotsford male, was also treated for injuries in Pemberton, and faces charges of impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing injury to his passenger.
Meanwhile the woman who fell into the river was stabilized, and told emergency crews that she would seek medical attention on her own.
The lighter side of the blotter...
Most arrested man arrested again?
On Feb. 2, a 48-year-old Mt. Currie male known to police was arrested for breach of his probation, which included conditions not to be intoxicated and not to be in Whistler. What was significant is that the male had 65 RCMP files in 2011 and 462 files on his police record, most relating to alcohol. Realizing it was impractical as a deterrent, the judge removed the condition banning the male from Whistler. Weeks later he would be arrested for singing loudly in the village, and, a few hours after that, for throwing snowballs at pedestrians in the village.
Botched drugging nets drug charges
People, and especially bar staff, in Whistler are hypersensitive to incidents of females having drugs slipped into their drinks at bars, which played a role in the arrest of a 39-year-old from Calgary in the early morning hours of Feb. 4. Bar staff observed the male attempting to put something in the drink of a young woman. Not knowing that the woman wanted the substance — MDMA — in her drink, they contacted the RCMP who found the bottle in the man's sock. He was arrested for trafficking a controlled substance.
Sorry, wrong house...
Just after 4 a.m. on Feb. 22, the Whistler RCMP received a call from Northlands Boulevard after a male awoke to find another male standing in his bedroom. The intoxicated intruder took his shoes off, and when the male occupant objected, the intruder told him it was okay; he was only going to lie down.
There were five similar cases reported this year where intoxicated people mistakenly let themselves into the wrong house and either woke up the occupants or were discovered by the occupants when they returned home. No charges were pressed in any of those cases, but it's another good reason to lock your doors at night.
Chat room encounter turns ugly
A Whistler man in his early 20s is a little wiser after a naked chat room encounter turned ugly on April 8.
The male was in a web camera chat room, talking to two women who were also naked. When the session ended he received a Skype call shortly after from a man in Morocco who had posted a video of the session on YouTube and was demanding $450 not to share it with the Whistler man's Facebook friends.
The man quickly cancelled his Facebook and email accounts, and a later check revealed that Google also took down the YouTube video for violating their standards.
The RCMP attended and verified that the caller was from Morocco, meaning there was little they could do.
They reminded the public to always be cautious when it comes to putting identities and personal information online, and never to put anything on the Internet they would not want shared.
Speed trap nets 29 tickets in two hours
The RCMP and Sea to Sky Traffic Services set up a speed check on Highway 99 at Whistler Olympic Park on Friday, April 20 and netted an astounding 29 speeders in roughly two hours. To make matters worse, they only stopped vehicles that were speeding over 30km/h over the limit.
"We had one officer on the laser and three writing tickets, and our hands were full," said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP. "If we had more people we would certainly have lowered our tolerance. But people were driving so fast and we wanted to get the worst offenders, and we were so busy with people going 30km/h over that others slipped by."
The worst offender was on a motorcycle clocked going 152/km/h in an 80km/h zone — 72km/h above the speed limit and almost double the 40km/h excessive speeding threshold where police impound vehicles. The motorcycle had a valid Ontario licence, but the vehicle was insured in B.C. under the driver's mother's name though she didn't possess a motorcycle licence.
The driver was also wearing a GoPro camera, presumably recording his ride.
On Vancouver Island, police caught a different motorcyclist the week before after he posted a GoPro video on YouTube of him going 300km/h on the Highway between Nanaimo and Victoria.
The Highway 99 motorcyclist received a fine of $483 and the motorcycle was impounded for seven days.
As well as the 29 vehicles stopped at the speed check, the RCMP handed out 16 other traffic tickets that evening.
A similar speed check over two days in late May resulted in six vehicles being impounded for seven days, all travelling at least 40km/h over the speed limit.
Wrong number results in drug charges for American
An American citizen living in Whistler was arrested for trafficking a controlled substance after he accidentally sent a text to a RCMP cell phone asking if the person at the other end had a market for "oxy," the street name for the pain-relief drug OxyContin — a prescription medication that was pulled from shelves in Canada in February due to the number of people using it as a narcotic.
The first text came in on May 11, and police continued to text the 30-year-old and placed him under surveillance until they met the individual in Function Junction on May 14 at 2:45 p.m. Plainclothes officers arrested the man with roughly 100 pills on his person. He was later released on a promise to appear in court to answer charges.
Surveillance footage blocks insurance fraud attempt
At 2:30 p.m. on May 9, the Whistler RCMP received a call regarding a stolen rental vehicle from an underground parkade in a hotel. The renter said his vehicle had been taken, smashed into a pole in the underground and then returned to its parking stall.
However, RCMP reviewed security footage from the parkade and determined that the renter himself, a 74-year-old male from California, drove the vehicle into the pole.
Police considered charging the male for making a false police report, but let him off with a warning. They also contacted the rental company.
Fine doubled for lying
An 18-year-old female from Coquitlam turned a $115 bylaw ticket for open liquor into a more expensive $230 provincial liquor ticket after refusing to admit she was using someone else's identification. After being arrested for obstruction and brought to the police detachment on Friday, May 18 she finally admitted that she was not the person on the licence and provided her real name.
Couple found naked in hotel hot tub with no clothes
The May long weekend is one of Whistler's craziest for police files, and this year was no exception. On May 19, guests staying at a hotel on the Benchlands found a naked couple from Port Coquitlam in the hot tub with no clothes anywhere. They shed their clothes somewhere the previous night and jumped the fence to get to the hot tub, but were unable to leave because it was too cold. Hours later they couldn't remember where they left their clothes. They were given towels and given a ride by police back to their respective accommodations.
Intoxicated female stiffs taxi, breaks and enters, flees police
A 21-year-old Whistler woman got off with a night in cells and a ticket for being intoxicated in public after a series of late-night escapades.
Just before midnight on June 10, the woman was taken to a house on Fitzsimmons Creek by a taxi. Instead of paying the driver she got out of the cab and ran to a nearby house, letting herself in. The driver knocked on the door and was greeted by the owner of the property, who didn't know who the female was — only that she was using his bathroom. When the homeowner and driver confronted her, she ran again, this time cutting through yards before police arrived and found her further down the road.
She was unable to remember where she lived or the phone numbers of any friends, and was arrested for public intoxication and held until sober. She also paid off the taxi.
River of Golden Dreams sting results in alcohol confiscations, tickets
After receiving numerous complaints from tour operators regarding drinking and littering along the River of Golden Dreams that links Alta Lake to Green Lake, the RCMP decided to take action.
Over four days in August, the RCMP confiscated and poured out up to 350 cans and bottles of beer and spirits, handing out tickets to some of the guilty parties.
"It's a public area, it's a family place for people to go, it's ecotourism, and (offenders) should be mindful of the other people that are in there," said Sergeant Rob Knapton of the Whistler RCMP. "(Drinking and littering) is the last thing that people want to see coming down the river."
Bear aversion technique leaves neighbours choking
On Aug. 12 and 8 p.m. the Whistler Fire Rescue Service and RCMP were called to Casabella Crescent where people were complaining of difficulty breathing. The nearby units were evacuated as a precaution while the incident was investigated.
The cause of the issue was soon discovered. The owner of one unit, in an attempt to dissuade bears from chewing up a hot tub cover, had sprayed the cover with bear spray – the scent of which also affected the neighbours' breathing. No charges were laid.
Once more unto the breach...
On Dec. 1 at 11:35 p.m. the Whistler RCMP stopped a man on the Village Stroll with an open can of beer. When they stopped him, they determined that the 30-year-old man was on probation and was not allowed to leave the province of Ontario without permission. His original offences occurred back in May, and included assault and mischief.
The RCMP held the man until he could get a bail hearing from a Justice of the Peace, then released him under a promise to appear in court for breaching his conditions.
While police were dealing with that individual, another individual attempted to intervene. This person was carrying an open bottle of vodka, and police quickly determined that he was also in breach of a condition not to consume alcohol outside his own residence. He was also 30 years old.
Both men hail from Kitchener, Ontario.
Male voyeur arrested after too many bathroom breaks
Whistler Blackcomb staff became suspicious of a male who was taking too many bathroom breaks, repeatedly going into the men's bathroom and standing at the urinals while checking out other males. Apparently this behaviour went on for two days, Dec. 8 and 9 before the police were called and on-mountain patrols attended. The male had left by the time the RCMP arrived, but staff had obtained his identity from his ski pass.
The RCMP are now investigating the 40-year-old male for suspected voyeurism, although he did not have any past history with the police.
Man arrested for planning "Ganjam" had backpack full of marijuana, beer
A 22-year-old Whistler male is facing charges of possession for the purposes of trafficking after being busted while attempting to host an unsanctioned snowboard competition on Blackcomb where the prizes were marijuana.
The police received a call about the "Ganjam" on Dec. 12 after it was posted on Facebook. Two plainclothes officers waited at the top of the terrain park on the day of the event when a man rode by on his snowboard saying "Ganjam, Ganjam." He rode down into the park where the police watched him open a backpack that contained cans of beer. He then opened the front pocket and showed another person a bag of marijuana. He then packed up and was preparing to ride down into the park when police stopped him.
Police found him in possession of bags containing 8.4 grams, 3.2 gram, 3.0 grams and 3.6 grams of marijuana, plus another bag with 26 joints. He had some hash and a bong as well.
The male was released on a promise to appear and will make his first appearance in court in North Vancouver on Jan. 30.
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