Regional RCMP officers were kept busy over the weekend, as the Shambhala music festival wrapped up in the early hours Monday morning.
Traffic enforcement was the main focus, with police all over roads in the area.
“You name it, from unsafe vehicles and bald tires, no insurance, no seatbelts as well as 96 marijuana seizures — that’s a lot,” said Operations NCO Staff Sergeant Dan Seibel, who has policed the festival for two years. “They checked a lot of vehicles.”
Despite being busier than last year, Seibel said that from a policing perspective things went relatively well.
“At the end of the day we look at the safety and well-being of the citizens in the area, particularly Salmo and surrounding areas and the roadways and I think our police presence contributed to that.”
According to the media release, 13 charges are being recommended for Drug and Criminal Code offences and 22 for traffic charges.
There were a total of 673 traffic related offences recorded over the weekend, including 10 vehicles impounded and 22 towed. There were several injury collisions, which RCMP associated to drivers being under the influence of drugs and extreme fatigue.
Sergeant Derrick Donovan of the West Kootenay Traffic Services said he was surprised by the number of people who weren’t wearing seatbelts, 52, and the amount of excessive speeding tickets issued — there were eight vehicles going at least 45-kilometres over the speed limit.
Alcohol offences were relatively low but the number of drug seizures jumped from around 80 at last year’s event to 120 this past weekend.
“This year we did see a little decline in impaired driving (from alcohol) and I think that’s partially from our new laws as well, however our concern is that people still think that they’re okay to drive while they’re impaired by drugs other than alcohol,” said Donovan, who has policed the event for three years.
He added RCMP saw an overall increase in the number of drivers who were impaired by drugs, which made infractions like not wearing seatbelts and speeding all the more dangerous. That, combined with drivers being overtired, was a concern for everyone.
To that end, officers were also educating drivers on how to deal with fatigue, including rotating drivers and pulling over.
RCMP also ran undercover operations on the festival grounds again, resulting in four different arrests for selling acid and MDMA (Ecstacy) to undercover operators.
Even though RCMP beefed up event security already on-hand, no money is given back to the police forces by organizers, something that Donovan hopes changes in the future.
“The last three years in particular we’ve raised our enforcement, however the cost to do it is quite large and because of the resources it takes up … there’s only so much money to continue to do road safety throughout the year,” he explained, adding there are other major provincial and national events who allocate some of their profits back to police.
Officers from the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment (KBRD) both in uniform and plain clothes, Integrated Road Safety Unit, West Kootenay Traffic Unit, KBRD Police Dog Service Unit, traffic canine units and vehicle inspectors policed the weekend event.
They patrolled highways in the surrounding areas, as well as farther away from the festival and also on the grounds.
The festival draws around 10,000 people to the area each year.