Area RCMP have crunched the numbers from the Shambhala Music Festival weekend and despite the heavy workload, say it went as well as could be expected.
“There are no real surprises, it’s pretty consistent with the past few year years,” said Sgt Derrick Donovan of the West Kootenay Traffic Services. “Sometimes the stats don’t show it, but we did feel that it has gotten better as far as the people leaving [the festival]. We found they were better educated and for the most part had less people that were under the influence when they left.”
The Integrated Road Safety Unit reports that officers very busy between August 6 and August 14. They received support from the Nelson Police Department, other local RCMP detachments, the RCMP police dog team and the Advanced Licence Plate Recognition Unit.
In total there were 118 speeding tickets handed out along with a number of other traffic infractions. Officers at road checks and on the highway also confiscated drugs from 69 different individuals during that period. The most common drug was marijuana (41), but other substances like ecstasy (16), mushrooms (6) and LSD (2) made the list.
The area covered by the unit extended all the way to Rock Creek to the west and included the area around Nelson. Donovan said not all traffic infractions can be pinned to the festival, but based on information recorded by officers estimates 70 per cent involved those attending the four-day event.
As for the seizures of drugs, the veteran RCMP officer said they were not arresting people for amounts that were obviously personal use.
“Our biggest thing is road safety,” said Donovan, who has been with the local department for the last four years. “If we do find it, then we seize it and dispose of it.”
Other than the traffic unit, RCMP had officers from the Salmo detachment dealing with issues arising from the festival that is held on the Salmo River Ranch southeast of the community. This year’s festival was the 15th and Shambhala sells 10,000 tickets to the event. There are also more than 1,000 volunteers and staff on the site during the weekend of the festival.
The Salmo detachment dealt with three counts of possession of controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking. They also arrested two people for breach of conditions and one person for assault. Police said two other suspects were issued notices to appear in court for assault allegations, while another man was arrested and released on a sexual assault allegation. All three incidences are still under investigation.
The BC Coroner’s Service is also currently investigating the death of Mitchell Joseph Fleischacker, 23, of Sidney, BC who died of a suspected drug overdose on the Sunday of the festival.
“The police got a lot of support,” said Donovan. “The people were very happy for us to be out there and it’s appreciated by the members that are out there.”
On a normal summer weekend, Donovan said they RCMP deal with six to 10 seizures of drugs and issue about half as many speeding tickets.