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When it comes to crime, Whistler has hit a ‘new normal’

RCMP’s annual crime stats show violent crime, sex assaults and drug charges up, while property crime and vehicle incidents trended the other direction
Sea to Sky RCMP Staff Sgt. Sascha Banks presents the detachment’s annual policing stats to Whistler’s mayor and council at a Committee of the Whole meeting last week, which was streamed online, as acting mayor Cathy Jewett looks on.

The Whistler RCMP presented the detachment's annual policing stats for 2022 last week, and they exemplified a resort that has seen its visitation rebound post-COVID, along with several new crime trends that can’t wholly be pegged to the community’s continued recovery.

“I’d say Whistler is definitely [in a] new normal. It’s not necessarily what it looked like pre-pandemic, in 2019, and we’re seeing that develop in the statistics,” said Sea to Sky RCMP operations commander, Staff Sgt. Sascha Banks, to mayor and council at the March 21 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Overall, violent crime was up five per cent, from 280 offences in 2021 to 301 last year. Last year’s total was also 13-per-cent higher than Whistler’s five-year average of 265.

Total assaults rose 17 per cent, from 142 offences to 166, while, within that same category, sexual assaults increased 18 per cent, from 28 to 33 offences.

“I would hedge a bet that the majority of this is occurring with the younger age group in sort of a nightclub-type, village [setting]. It’s that late-at-night-type mentality, whether the sexual assault could be an unwanted contact within the bar environment, or something that happens after the fact,” said Banks, adding that there needs to be more analysis done to better understand the trend.

“That is one of my goals with my Special Victims Unit investigator, to do a bit more of a deep dive into this.”

Intimate partner violence was on the downswing last year, falling 11 per cent from 45 to 40 offences, while uttering threats (37 offences) and child pornography charges (six) largely stayed pat.

Drugs and/or alcohol were a factor in more than two-thirds of assault and domestic assault files last year, Banks said, and in 83 per cent of Whistler’s sexual assault offences.

'I was so proud of how quickly and effectively the response came'

Last year will of course be remembered for the brazen, daylight gang shooting that claimed two lives last July outside of the Sundial Hotel in Whistler Village. Banks said arrests were made within 40 minutes of the murders, and two men reportedly connected to the Brothers Keepers gang have been charged.

“On one our darkest days, the response from the RCMP was awesome. I was so proud of how quickly and effectively the response came,” said Councillor Jeff Murl during the meeting.

A bigger spillover of gang activity from a growing Lower Mainland is one expected aspect of Whistler’s “new normal” for police. Banks, who formerly worked the gang beat in Surrey, said the detachment’s new Community Response Unit—a team of specially trained officers working with local partners on specific areas of crime—as well as its inadmissible patron and bar watch program, which remains in development and has been for more than a year and a half, would help to keep known gang members out of Whistler establishments.

“I think almost every individual or every company that we've spoken to within the community is onboard with that,” she said. “It's just how we effectively roll that program out, making sure that we are within the lines of not compromising the program, because somebody needs to have the skill set, they need to have the knowledge, they need to have the database to be able to roll that out properly.”

Property crime up, but below five-year average

In property crime, offences rose 15 per cent, to 512, although 2022 was below the five-year average of 597. Virtually every property crime category highlighted was up last year, save for theft over $5,000, which dropped from six to five offences, and mischief over $5,000, which fell from four offences in 2021 to zero.

The highest percentage increases in property crime were auto theft, which rose 129 per cent, from seven to 16 offences; break-and-enters, which climbed 100 per cent, from 16 to 32 offences, and fraud, which rose 49 per cent, from 49 to 73 files.
Bike theft, a persistent issue locally, stayed consistent across 2021 and ’22, at 30 and 32 offences, respectively, despite a busier year in terms of visitation.

“There's no doubt over the last five years, throughout the Sea to Sky, and particularly in Whistler, we've really tackled bike theft, and it continues to be low,” Banks said.

Drug offences skyrocket

Local Mounties continue to emphasize road safety, which showed promising signs of improvement last year. There were no fatalities on Whistler’s roads in 2022, as in 2021, which Banks chalked up to officers’ proactive enforcement and a lack of extreme weather compared to past years. Vehicle collisions were on a downswing, dropping seven per cent, from 176 accidents in 2021 to 163, 22 per cent below the five-year average.

Impaired driving offences rose 10 per cent, from 161 to 177 offences, and three Whistler officers were awarded last year for the number of impaired drivers they took off the roads.

Another sign of Whistler’s continued rebound, drug offences skyrocketed 239 per cent last year, from 19 to 72, a total that police expect to drop significantly following B.C.’s recent decriminalization of up 2.5 grams of certain hard drugs.

Banks added that the local detachment, along with Vancouver Coastal Health and the municipal bylaw team, is planning to undertake an analysis of the impact of decriminalization on recreational drug use in Whistler.

The Whistler RCMP are hosting a community open house at the local library on March 29.