Shambhala festival strains West Kootenay police forces

The festival has come and gone but RCMP are now beginning to tally up the results of efforts during the five-day Shambhala Music Festival.

The festival has come and gone but area RCMP are just now beginning to tally up the results of policing efforts during the five-day Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo.

To cover the popular electronic music fest, the Salmo RCMP detachment joined forces with the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment, West Kootenay Traffic Services, and West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit to deal with the influx of approximately 10,000 party goers.

The Salmo detachment responded to over 40 calls relating to the festival, resulting in 14 people being taken into custody, including one who was sent to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in mental distress.

Salmo RCMP responded to reports of assault, trespassing, theft, causing a disturbance, vandalism, and a wide variety of drug and alcohol offences.

Although numerous complaints were made, at least one Salmo resident saw an improvement in the crowd management of the festival over previous years.

“I think they did a great job this year, Salmo was kept clean and most people were in town for the first day and then at the party,” said local resident, Shelly Grice-Gold. “Since they allow people in early and to stay longer (at the festival) Salmo isn’t as rocked with people and a mess.”

However, not all the local concerns voiced in former years seem to have been addressed.

“What gets me is how much 911 is called, all we hear is sirens for five days straight,” added Grice-Gold.

“I think they need to regulate the drug use. How can so many dealers have tons of pills and still get through the road blocks?

“I know pills and powder are easy to hide but why not have the drug dogs out? It’s really a gong show full of drugs . . . no matter what anybody says.”

Extra resources were brought in from the Trail, Castlegar detachments, the Nelson Integrated Border Enforcement Team, and the Nelson Police Department to assist with policing and road safety.

Police made over 200 drug seizures over the course of Shambhala including; cannabis, hashish, cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), ketamine, methadone, and a variety of other substances, and several charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking were laid.

Eighteen drivers were handed suspensions for driving under the influence of drugs while 10 alcohol-related driving offences resulted in 24-hour, three-day, and 90-day immediate driving suspensions.

“Each check is different, if the police officer gathers the grounds to conduct a search during a vehicle stop they will pull the car to the side of the road and start to search,” said Salmo RCMP Cpl. Riordan Bellman. “If the sobriety of the driver is an issue then that will be looked at.”

There was also nine incidents of liquor seizures from vehicles and several hundred traffic violations issued for seat belt infractions, speeding, using an electronic device while driving, no driver’s license, driving contrary to conditions, no insurance, and vehicle safety defects.