British Columbia

Whistler braces for 'vandalism and hooliganism' over May long weekend

Whistler is bringing in extra police officers and exercising vigilance in anticipation of the May long weekend — traditionally a destination for rowdy young partiers.

Weekend in resort town marred by violence and rowdy behaviour in the past

Partygoers walk through the Whistler Village on Friday evening. (Holly Adams)

The May long weekend has the dubious distinction of being the biggest policing event of the year in Whistler.

"All local officers will be working with their shifts extended and we're having additional officers being brought in from the Lower Mainland and Squamish," says Whistler-Pemberton RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair.

Officers are gearing up to do foot patrols in high-visibility vests throughout the village and bike patrols around the perimeter, with others stationed at road safety check stops.

Whistler is bringing in extra police officers in anticipation of the May long weekend. (Holly Adams)

What menace are these officers bracing for?

"Young adults in the 18 to 25-year-old demographic," LeClair said.

'Vandalism and hooliganism'

Waves of youth — many from the Lower Mainland — descend on the mountain resort to party in what has become an annual spring tradition.

Unfortunately, they bring with them what Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden calls "vandalism and hooliganism."

Her council has attempted to take back control of the long weekend, starting with a dedicated committee.

In 2014, they created the annual Great Outdoors Festival — a family-friendly celebration focused on outdoor adventure activities — to change the weekend's unruly party image.

She thinks the festival made a difference last year, saying it felt like there were "more families in town, less groups of rowdy, early 20-year-olds."

Whistler started the Great Outdoors Festival in 2014 to encourage more family-oriented activities during the May long weekend. (Clint Trahan/GoFest)

Tragic Consequences

Which is not to say everything went smoothly.

Things took an especially tragic turn last year when 19-year-old Luka Gordic was stabbed to death by a group of teenagers, with a second stabbing taking place the next night.

Nonetheless, LeClair says they made some progress last year.

"If you take those two things out of the mix, last year was a relatively good year," he said.

Two separate stabbings took place during the 2015 Whistler May long weekend and 19-year-old Luka Gordic died from his injuries. (Belle Puri/CBC)

He says they only received 169 calls and put 20 people in detention last year, compared to 200 calls and 38 people in detention in 2014.

"We'll be exercising vigilance," he said of this year's efforts. "There'll be zero tolerance of public intoxication, possession of open liquor, disturbances or open weapons."

And LeClair is confident that his force can handle this weekend.

"As a resort community this is what we do," he said. "This is our bread and butter."