Despite a small turnout at Thursday evening’s RCMP Town Hall
meeting, local police managed to discuss a wide range of policing issues.
The event was held at Whistler Secondary School from 6 until 8
p.m., with members of the local RCMP detachment present to outline their
policing priorities for the current year.
Inspector Norm McPhail chaired the meeting, with the assistance
of Constable Afzeel Yakub, and Staff Sergeants Steve LeClair and Guy Pollack.
Insp. McPhail described the meeting as a council initiative to
get feedback and ideas, and to address concerns of the public.
While there are currently 81 RCMP members in the Sea to Sky
corridor — including 31 in Whistler and Pemberton, 28 in Squamish, three
on Bowen Island, eight plain clothes officers who work throughout the corridor,
and 10 St’at’imc Tribal Police — McPhail said he has requested 10
additional officers for the entire region.
“Policing is an expensive endeavor,” McPhail explained, adding
that they have attempted to bolster their numbers with volunteer auxiliary
McPhail also acknowledged that, “Whistler itself is a very
unique environment,” explaining while statistics show the town has the highest
crime rate in the province, that number is calculated based on resident
population, which is approximately 10,000, and does not account for seasonal
residents and visitors.
McPhail says he is working with the province to resolve this
and ensure Whistler crime rates are accurately reflected in statistics.
The inspector identified four central priorities for 2007: drug
and substance abuse, traffic, property crime and aboriginal analysis.
Statistics presented at Thursday’s meeting were compiled on a
per day basis, as the current fiscal year does not come to an end until spring.
Based on information currently available, drug possession
charges have increased slightly this year, though Const. Yakub said this
increase may simply reflect the detachment’s recent focus on reduced
At the same time, statistics also showed a slight reduction in
Since all of the local communities are linked by one stretch of
highway, McPhail pointed out that the police have to be especially vigilant
about keeping the road safe, and acknowledged that they have not been
successful in the Pemberton area, with at least nine deaths caused by driver
error so far this year.
RCMP are trying to address these road safety issues by educating
the public and setting up roadblocks.
One audience member criticized recent roadblocks, implemented
from Nov. 21 to 23 in the Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton areas, pointing out
that they were set up in poor locations and interrupted the flow of traffic.
RCMP officials explained there has to be a balance between
policing and maintaining traffic flow, and said they were looking into the
roadblocks in question, which were a joint operation between Sea to Sky Traffic
Services and the Lower Mainland Traffic Services.
Mayor Ken Melamed pointed out that local officers may be more
sensitive to local issues, whereas officers coming from outside of the
community may not understand the tourist-driven nature of the area, and should
be aware that they are acting as ambassadors.
McPhail said they aimed to increase awareness about property
crime in Whistler, and pointed out the majority of this crime targets tourists
visiting the areas with high value goods. RCMP have worked closely with
Whistler-Blackcomb to educate visitors about keeping their valuables safe and
not leaving them in cars, which may have contributed to the slight decrease in
motor vehicle crime.
Despite this success, the RCMP is still working on establishing
Citizens on Patrol in Whistler, a volunteer group that would act as “eyes and
ears” for the RCMP.
In Whistler, there is one police officer for every 400
residents, which is a fairly low ratio. But McPhail pointed out that, like
provincial statistics, this number ratio does not account for the many tourists
who come to town. Because of this, McPhail is seeking additional provincial
support to boost resources, which are currently paid for by the municipality
and the federal government in a 70-30 split.
Overall, McPhail said he is satisfied with the current level of service being offered in the corridor, though he would like to see increased attention along the highway.