New Year's Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year in Whistler, and while people are generally well-behaved it's a night for police dealing with issues like public drinking and people too intoxicated to make it home on their own.
Police cells are kept busy, but over the years the number of calls landing people in jail is going down. There were just 20 arrested on New Year's 2011, down from 39 the year before and 32 the year before that.
"It's a very busy evening as for the number of people we have in the village, the vibe we've seen is festive and for the most part it's a fun and peaceful event," said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair. "That's what we're striving to maintain and keep that family-centred event happening here in Whistler."
To deal with the volume, the Whistler RCMP will have every officer on duty, and will bring in additional officers from the Lower Mainland to bolster village patrols and highway checks. They can also access special teams including dog units, and traffic units if required will make regular patrols to high traffic areas like the bus stops and taxi loop. The RCMP is even prepared to put officers on buses if that becomes necessary.
The RCMP is asking people not to drink and drive and to have a plan for getting home safely. The buses are running and every taxi in the resort will be available, but there can be crowds and waits for service.
The Whistler RCMP have been retrofitting the cells to make them safer for staff and officers — over the last month or so Whistler's detachment has been sending people to cells in Squamish while the renovation was underway. Staff Sgt. LeClair said those cells should be open for New Year's Eve.
While the cells are large and can hold up to 10 people, police can't mix genders or minors and adults, and depending on the mix of prisoners, it may be necessary to send some prisoners to cells in Pemberton or Squamish.
On New Year's Eve, the RCMP is working from an operational plan with zero tolerance for public drinking, and they will be handing out fines ranging from $100 to $130 for various offences.
People are also reminded that Whistler Village is an alcohol-free zone, and large portions of the village will be closed for the Whistler Presents: New Year's Eve Celebrations. To get into the village you'll need a ticket to a party at a nightclub in the village, or a ticket to the free all-ages celebration which includes music, crafts, food, a teen dance party, ice skating at Whistler Olympic Plaza and a New Year's Eve countdown followed by a fireworks display.
Winter storm sparks flurry of highway calls
With over 30 cm of snow falling in less than 24 hours, the Whistler RCMP and towing companies were kept busy on Dec. 19. One case reported just after 4 p.m. involved a hit and run, where a woman's driver side front quarter panel was damaged by an SUV making a pass near the Big Orange Bridge. The driver slowed down, expecting the SUV to stop, but instead it just drove ahead southbound to Squamish. Her vehicle was still drivable, so she continued on to Squamish where she reported the incident. She provided a licence plate number to RCMP, which is investigating.
That was just one of six calls that RCMP responded to in about seven hours, In one case, a vehicle on Portage Road rolled down a three-metre embankment after its passenger-side tires hit the snow pack, coming to rest on its tires. The driver was not injured.