Whistler looks to rein in rowdies 

Local forum points to causes, looks for solutions

By Vivian Moreau

 

Although numbers of May long weekend arrests and calls to police were down this year, about 125 people attended a forum recently to discuss how to deal with visiting rowdies.

 

Organized by Kimberley Hughes, general manager of Delta Whistler Village Suites hotel in response to complaints received after the May long weekend and hosted by the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, opinions at the forum varied on who should be responsible for curbing long weekend mobs.

 

Suggestions varied from banning those under 25 from registering at hotels to adding more police and bylaw officer patrols to installing outdoor cameras to giving offenders more time in the klink.

 

"Not being able to wake up at home works (as a deterrent)," said Fairmont general manager Paul Tormey.

 

Transit manager Scott Pass took the same hard-line approach.

 

"There have to be consequences for actions," Pass said. "Ticketing is not an option, some need to go to jail."

 

One of the few under 30s at the forum, Whistler resident Matt Graham, spoke against barring youth from hotels.

 

"An age cap is not the best factor," he said. "The real problem is that people think they can do whatever they want." He added that he did not see many police on patrol over the long weekend.

 

Whistler café owner Wayne Katz felt that what goes on in the village is ultimately the RCMP’s responsibility. "Drugs and alcohol are going to happen and we need to learn to control it," he said. "We need to be on top of it."

 

The RCMP’s Marc Lavergne said $17,000 was spent increasing police presence by 300 per cent from May 19 to 22.

 

"We’re no longer in normal mode on the May long weekend," he said.

 

In addition to regular patrols, staffing included four Lower Mainland assistants, two bike patrols, one police dog and two Squamish traffic officers. Over the weekend the local detachment received 98 calls, down from 121 calls in 2005, and made 13 arrests for public drunkenness. In 2005 there were 19 alcohol-related arrests.

 

Banff, by comparison, received 141 calls the same weekend and made 25 arrests for public drunkenness and uttering threats.

 

Municipal bylaw officer Sandra Smith made several recommendations to ease the problems with roving groups of inebriated visitors. Enhanced policing, earlier liquor store closing times, taxi loop barricades, giving tickets for open liquor and running the late night bus to staff housing were cited.

 

Softening sound from the village’s brick-heavy design and adjusting marketing strategies were also suggested.

 

"We need to be careful with messaging Whistler as a place to come party," Smith said, adding that until recently the resort had been touted as a place to "come pillage in the village."

 

Tom Johnston of Trilogy Properties, which manages Whistler’s Adara Hotel, said the Whistler’s brand has been devalued by promoting the resort as a party town at the expense of other visitors who come here for a quieter experience.

 

"As soon as you piss off guests they won’t come back," he said.

 

Michael Hofbauer, managing partner in the Savage Beagle argued against painting Whistler nightclubs and bars as "the bad guys," saying there has been closer collaboration between police and bars in the past year and that the six nightclubs meet monthly to discuss common concerns. He also advocated for extending closing time from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., saying the later hour would give customers more time to decompress from the social ‘clubbing’ high.

 

Hotelier Dennis Hilton said that all the suggestions were treating symptoms but not the real issues.

 

"What we need to be asking is what do we want Whistler to be," he said. "We have to work together to develop a consciousness [for the resort]." He agreed to be the contact for a discussion group that will work toward building consensus of what the issues are and how best to effect change.

 

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