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Stash of stolen goods uncovered

Sea to Sky corridor drug scene usually plays role in large property crime cases

Whistler and Squamish police have recovered several thousand dollars worth of stolen goods after raiding a Squamish apartment.

"There were flat screen TVs, several high-end mountain bikes, snowboards, computers, and things that were obviously taken from cars," said Squamish RCMP Cpl. Dave Ritchie. "We believe it is all Sea to Sky stuff from businesses, residences and vehicles."

Police are investigating more than one suspect but no arrests had been made at press time.

Officers were initially following up on a report of a stolen car. As their investigation continued it led them to the discovery of the loot, which may even include cases of identity theft.

Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Norm McPhail believes the recovery of these goods may close many of the outstanding property theft cases in Whistler.

"There are several high profile cases which we believe this discovery may impact," he said.

McPhail acknowledges that Whistler is having a challenging time when it comes to property theft and he is hopeful that this case may have broken up a successful group of thieves.

A recent municipal monitoring report found that property crimes accounted for 66 per cent of all Whistler Criminal Code offences in 2002, which was 10 per cent higher that the provincial average for the same year.

Across the country these types of thefts have been linked to drugs.

Officers with this investigation would not confirm a link in this case – their investigation is continuing – but for the RCMP in Whistler and Pemberton the theft case and the recent arrest of a drug trafficker from White Rock have highlighted the on-going war on drugs.

The drug scene up and down the Sea to Sky corridor varies, said McPhail, so strategies have to be flexible. But he said there is no doubt that he has seen a link between thefts and drugs in the corridor.

"People become addicted to hard drugs like cocaine and crystal (methamphetamine) and they need to obtain funds – that becomes their sole activity," said McPhail.

That need to feed their addiction often reduces people to robbery and other crimes to get money, which can then be used to buy drugs.

Said Ritchie: "From experience you can tie a certain amount (of theft) in because of crystal meth use and drug use and so on.

"They require this to obtain funds as a lot of them aren’t working."

Whistler is a good mark, said McPhail, as visitors often leave valuables in their cars and many homes are not occupied on a full-time basis and contain expensive goods.

With cash in hand the thieves buy cocaine, crystal meth and soft drugs.

"It’s like a circle, where it is all connected," said McPhail.

The drugs used in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton may be a little different but there are connections throughout the corridor.

Pemberton is facing a growing threat from marijuana grow-ops, so the community recently introduced a bylaw to deal with it.

McPhail is not surprised to see grow ops in quiet small-town Pemberton, away from the hustle and bustle of big city life and the hundreds of prying eyes of police.

"It’s in the small towns where the big time bad guys are setting up shop," said McPhail, who saw the same thing happen while he worked in the Kootenays.

The RCMP is working in uniform and undercover to bust the growers, and the local and not so local traffickers, who target Whistler and beyond.

"If you are going to come here and deal dope you are going to get caught," said McPhail.

The Whistler drug trade morphs as the seasons change since many of those who opportunistically get into it are workers who just come here in the busy times.

Dealers will target them, as well as some young locals, and use them to scout out potential buyers in bars and other locations said McPhail. Dope is the most commonly sold drug in Whistler but anyone wanting cocaine can link to it pretty easily.

The RCMP are also working with Whistler Secondary to make sure youth are aware of the dangers of drug use and it’s hoped that a new community policing officer dedicated to school liaison will also soon be in place.

McPhail said officers are also being very diligent about picking up students smoking dope who should be in school and returning them to the school, where officials and their parents will get involved with the case.

"We are making an impact now and we have done so over progressive years," he said.

"I think we are doing well but we can do better."