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RCMP to increase presence in Pemberton

Council calls for better response times

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Whistler/Pemberton detachment commander Norm McPhail has informed Pemberton council the RCMP is planning to build a new station and increase their presence in the village from eight to 20 officers.

Staff Sgt. McPhail said the plan would project to the needs of Pemberton in 2020, but in the short term another officer will be added next year, followed shortly thereafter by three more.

"I’m trying to get a new constable for Pemberton in 2005 and a public servant to help with the paper piles," said McPhail. "I’m also going to be trying to get an additional officer per year leading up to the Games.

"The plan I have is for 2020, because there’s going to be a lot of population growth in this area."

McPhail asked Pemberton council to look for housing programs that might help the RCMP with costs and said he wanted to pursue the issue in another meeting.

"There’s eight officers here now and we’re going to increase that to 12 and perhaps some housing strategies might help with that process," he said.

Mayor Elinor Warner welcomed the news but she and other councillors also pressured McPhail and highways officer Corporal Joe Schofield to address several issues in the community. Drug use, response time and the death toll on Highway 99 between Whistler and Pemberton within the last year are all concerns.

"We’ve had seven deaths all between Whistler and Pemberton in the last 12 month period," said Warner. "Now that’s a staggering figure on that length when you consider how many people drive it. Have we made any changes on the highway that has made it (the death toll) come up like it has?"

Warner added that she would like to see the RCMP "blitz" the area around midnight to stop people from drinking before they drive home.

Schofield said he didn’t have a definitive answer for the rise in highway fatalities but he did indicate that alcohol and speed were involved in almost all of them.

"In an average year we have six deaths… along a 180 km stretch of highway," said Schofield. "But this year we have not had a fatality north of Alice Lake, so sometimes it’s hard to tell."

Councillor Linda Chandler also addressed the issue of alcohol when she asked McPhail to look into under-aged drinking in the village.

Councillor Mark Blundell was critical of the RCMP’s response times and the lack of police patrolling the area.

"I know people have called the police about things behind the Legion and it takes police 20 minutes to respond when the station is right there," said Blundell. "It just appears to me that… response time is not as good as it could be."

The mayor rounded out the meeting by highlighting the fact that council would like to continue meeting regularly with the RCMP. McPhail said that this approach could only be a positive step for the community.

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