Every member of Whistler's RCMP detachment will be suited up this New Year's Eve, ensuring the safety of locals and visitors on one of the resort's busiest nights of the year.
As in years past, police will have "multiple additional resources" available to them on Tuesday, Dec. 31, said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, and will tailor their operational plan to deal with the expected influx of revellers in the village.
Public intoxication and minor assaults are the types of offences officers most commonly deal with on New Year's Eve, LeClair said, although recently arrest figures in Whistler on the night have been decreasing.
"This will be my seventh New Year's here and I see particularly early in the evening a lot of families enjoying the festivities, and then it does transition to a younger crowd that's more celebratory in nature, but I'm happy with the way things have been going, as far as New Year's is concerned," LeClair noted. "It's certainly become less of a concern over the years."
Whistler has seen its New Year's Eve crime stats drop due in large part to the municipality's focus on offering family-friendly, alcohol-free festivities throughout the village. Last year, there were 11 arrests for public drunkenness, and one drug charge. Bylaw officers also issued 56 tickets, the bulk of which were for possession of open liquor. There were 20 arrests made on New Year's Eve 2011, down from 39 the year before and 32 in 2009.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she's seen the atmosphere in the village on the busy night "change pretty radically" over the years.
"We would have crowds and crowds of very drunken, young adults who effectively took over the village," she said, recalling one particularly unruly New Year's Eve when "there were dozens of RCMP lined up all around Village Square with their backs to the walls and their arms folded, and the crowd was pelting snowballs. It could have exploded and it was a very menacing, horrible situation.
"It's been transformed radically, and we just don't see that kind of behaviour or atmosphere at all anymore."
Festivals, Events and Animation funding for New Year's Eve celebrations totalled $130,000 this year, identical to 2012.
The municipality is hosting several free events at multiple venues to ring in the New Year, including free skating at Olympic Plaza and a fireworks show at midnight. Wristbands can also be purchased, granting access to children's entertainment and crafts at Millennium Place, as well as games, music, activities and a video dance for teens at the Whistler Conference Centre, organized by Watermark Communications.
Whistler Transit service will be extended as well, with free service beginning at 6 p.m. until the early morning hours.
Police will be conducting regular road safety checks along Highway 99 throughout the evening. LeClair urged drivers to prepare for the chance of snowfall and ensure the public has dedicated winter tires with a minimum 3.5mm tread depth.
Advance tickets for Whistler Presents: New Year's Eve Celebration are available at the Visitor Centre, Millennium Place, Meadow Park Sports Centre or at www.whistler.com.
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