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Long weekend brings violence to Whistler

Two assaulted, dozens arrested; slight improvement over last year

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Two men were taken to the hospital as a result of May long weekend rowdiness this year, one with a fractured skull and one with a serious cut on his neck, but overall things have improved slightly over previous years.

The RCMP anticipated problems in advance and called in 30 additional officers for the weekend to step up patrols and keep the peace. They also set up a roadblock outside the village to intercept visitors.

Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider of the Pemberton/Whistler RCMP detachment says the situation was similar to the long weekend last year.

"It was the same issues, the same problems, the same clientele," said Haider. "I think we were better prepared for it this year, we had more resources working and bigger presence."

The list of weapons and potential weapons seized by the RCMP over the weekend includes a razor blade, a switchblade, a metal bar, brass knuckles, a floor jack handle, bear spray, pepper spray, a field hockey stick, two baseball bats, a sling shot, four metal fireplace rods, a fireplace poker a large crowbar and a large socket wrench.

The RCMP also attended six fights, made 22 arrests for being drunk in public, issued four 24-hour driving prohibitions, made 10 drug seizures, investigated 11 reports of theft, and responded to 11 noise complaints and seven complaints of disturbances.

Despite the extra officers and recent efforts by a Public Safety Committee, that includes the RCMP, nightclubs, the municipality and the accommodation sector, there were some serious incidents reported which are still under investigation.

On the evening of May 23, the RCMP received a report of an assault in progress in Whistler Village near the Savage Beagle. The police attended the scene and assisted a 17-year-old male from Burnaby who had been struck in the head with "an expandable baton or pipe of some kind", resulting in a two-inch cut to his temple.

The suspect in that incident was described as a dark-skinned male, possibly Indo Canadian, who was wearing a white undershirt under a white shirt with thin blue stripes, and had curly hair to the neck line. Patrols searched for the suspect but were unable to find him.

The victim was taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture. He was stabilized and taken by ambulance to Lions Gate Hospital for observation.

The previous evening the RCMP attended a call at Garfinkel’s night club after a report that two men were cut with a broken glass during an altercation. A 28-year-old Whistler man was cut in the neck and taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre before being transferred to Lions Gate Hospital. He was released shortly afterwards. He went to the RCMP detachment in Whistler on Wednesday to make a statement.

The second victim, a 30 year old man from North Vancouver, had a cut on his forehead but was not deemed seriously injured.

The suspect is a 20-year-old male from Aldergrove who was apprehended by doormen and arrested by officers. He was released on the morning of May 23, and, if charges are approved, will appear in court in North Vancouver at the end of July.

The police are still investigating what happened, but said the Whistler man was not part of the altercation but rather was an innocent third party who happened to be in the area.

One of the areas where the RCMP saw an improvement this year was in the behaviour of grad parties.

"What was important for us is that we did a lot of communication work with the schools’ liaison officers in the Lower Mainland area this year, and we knew in advance that we were going to have a lot of grad classes coming to celebrate," said Haider.

"Quite frankly there were some issues with them, but it hasn’t been as bad as it’s been in past years. Some of the hotels were better prepared for them as well and I think they screened them better this year.

"It’s a real challenge for the hotel accommodation sector because a lot of kids are having their parents book rooms online and they (the grads) are just showing up and saying ‘where’s my key?’

"We still had our non-desirable groups coming up as well, the non-grads. We get infiltrated at this time of year because the hotels do reduce their room rates and that does attract that clientele – they don’t go skiing, they don’t go hiking, they don’t go mountain biking, they just party, party, party and take advantage of us."

Although the RCMP were kept busy, Haider says there were some signs of improvement this year that were related to the activities of the Public Safety Committee. Only one serious incident, the broken glass at Garfinkel’s, was reported from within the nightclubs.

"In some ways it was probably better (this year)," said Haider. "I think we were better prepared for one.

"I think the communication between nightclubs, bylaw and ourselves was excellent, which is one of the reasons the community is as safe as it is."

The roadblocks also helped to establish a police presence early in the weekend for most visitors, Haider says.

"I know some people really dislike us while other people are thanking us for being out there and doing that," he said.

There will continue to be an additional police presence through the summer, with officers from the Lower Mainland coming to Whistler from Friday to Monday night. In addition a set of cattle fences will be set up at the taxi loop to create a line during busy periods.

So far the municipality has approved an extra $25,000 for RCMP funding, to pay for additional officers on weekends. The hotels and nightclubs have also improved communication, alerting one another about potential problem customers.

The Village Safety Committee met during the winter to discuss ways to reduce the drunken behaviour and violence that hits Whistler in the shoulder season when prices are lower.

The time frame between the end of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival and early June is typically the worst, with grad classes and large groups from the Lower Mainland coming to Whistler.

Although things can improve, Haider doesn’t think that the RCMP and the committee can ever put an end to rowdy weekends in Whistler.

"I don’t think you’ll be able to reduce this kind of weekend because it’s a season that doesn’t cater to skiers or mountain bikers… as we get into the shoulder season the resort is more of a bargain, which makes more attractive to these groups," said Haider.

Anyone with any information on either weekend assault is asked to contact the RCMP at 604-932-3044.

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