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Putting down the insurrection

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Razor blades, switch blades, metal bars, aluminum knuckles, pepper spray, bear spray, fireplace pokers, baseball bats, slingshots, field hockey sticks, crowbars, socket wrenches...

That’s just a partial list of the weapons or potential weapons that were seized by the RCMP in Whistler over the past two weekends through roadblocks, foot patrols and the usual arrests.

During the same period the police responded to over a dozen fights in progress, and twice as many noise complaints and disturbances. More than 40 people were so drunk that they were arrested and taken into custody for their protection as well as ours. Furious parents were called in the middle of the night to pick up their still underage charges.

Things got even more serious. Two weekends ago an innocent bystander was cut in the neck by a piece of flying glass when a fight erupted in a local nightclub. Last weekend a man was stabbed in the neck by an unidentified assailant. Although the man is now in stable condition it was treated as a "life-threatening" injury. In other words, it was nearly a murder.

Welcome to Whistler in the off-season. The world famous playground for the rich and famous becomes a regionally notorious battleground for the young and destructive.

It happens every year when winter vacationers leave and we’re forced to cut prices to fill rooms. Nobody seems to have any better ideas to keep our businesses in business through the shoulder seasons, which add up to about four months a year. Let’s face it – without snow or sunshine, there’s almost four months a year where our appeal is pretty limited.

At the same time Whistler’s enduring reputation as a party town – which is as much a part of our overall success as a root cause of our current problems – is a large part of the reason that things get so out of hand. A road trip to Whistler has become a kind of rite of passage for rowdy grad classes and groups from the Lower Mainland.

I think by now most people in Whistler can recognize trouble when they see it arriving on a Friday night. Trouble dresses and cuts its hair a certain way and drives a particular kind of car. Trouble also travels in large, often intimidating groups, and has a rough plan for the weekend that includes getting into clubs, getting hammered, trying to get laid, and, when nothing else pans out, getting into a fight.

Believe it or not there are places in the Lower Mainland where this is typical every Saturday night, not some anomaly in the slow shoulder season. There are also places in suburban Vancouver where people carry weapons around because that’s what you do if you want to be tough.

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