RCMP prepare for busy long weekend 

Proactive measures aimed at heading off troublemakers in village

The RCMP and the municipality are teaming up to make sure hoodlums and troublemakers stay out of Whistler this long weekend.

They have taken out ads in Lower Mainland newspapers, on radio stations and they have delivered posters to high schools to remind youth that Whistler is a zero tolerance town.

"There are two messages we want to get out," said RCMP spokesman Cst. Devon Jones. "The first is that Whistler is a safe environment and the second is that we are taking all the steps we need to to maintain that environment."

For the last two years the resort has captured news headlines thanks to stabbings, assaults, and seized weapons, including knives, baseball bats and even a gun.

The problems are brought in to town by unescorted grad students, who traditionally come up to celebrate and often get carried away, and gangs of youths that come to party.

In the past the problem has been acerbated by cheap hotel rooms that are often base to more than the allowed number of people per room.

The spiral into violence has prompted the RCMP and the municipality this year to draw up a three-year operational plan to turn the May long weekend into a peaceful event.

So expect to see roadblocks to catch drunk drivers, and highway patrols to catch speeders. There will also be eight officers dedicated to foot patrol in the village, and another 15-25 officers helping out and gathering intelligence in the resort each weekend night.

Whistler RCMP are also tapping into the Lower Mainland Gang Task Force to find out if any youth gangs are planning to come to the resort.

And two members of the liquor control branch will be in town keeping an eye on the bars.

It’s all good news for the local bars and clubs who are often on the forefront of the violence.

"I am very excited about the proactive measures that the community has taken a leadership role in bringing in," said Mike Hofbauer, general manager of Garfinkel’s nightclub.

He said his club would use metal detectors this weekend and bring in extra staff to ensure visitors feel secure.

"We sell having a good time and security and safety have to happen before people can relax and have a good time, that is something that we understand," said Hofbauer.

The bars do stay in touch during the night and alert each other if troublemakers are on the horizon. The RCMP foot patrol is also invaluable said Hofbauer.

"As police do walk-throughs they always let us know, ‘hey there was a group over there which was kind of rough,’" he said. "They don’t tell us what to do, but they let us know what they think of that group and we usually make our decisions based on that.

"We co-operate a lot because what is good for the town is good for all of us."

The mayor and council stand behind the initiative.

"We want to let people know that we are taking it seriously," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "Hopefully we can correct some of the conduct of the previous years and make sure the right people are here for the right reasons. We want people to feel that all year round it is safe and fun to come into the village and do things.

"We want to remind people that they are here to have fun but in an appropriate manner."

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