Nelson-area RCMP and the Nelson Police Department have extra officers on hand to help deal with the increase incidents expected with the number of people coming through the area for the Shambhala Music Festival.
Insp. Nick Romanchuk, officer in charge for the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment, said officers come from across the region to help supplement the Salmo detachment.
“Traditionally we’ve seen quite a number of accidents as a result of the increased traffic with people travelling to and from the festival,” Romanchuk said. “Certainly we see an increase in the number and type of illegal drugs in the area.”
His main concern is maintaining public safety outside the festival grounds. Though officers will go inside the gates if an incident occurs.
Shambhala hires its own security for inside the festival. Neither the provincial force nor the city police receive any compensation from festival to offset the cost of having more officers on duty.
“If this event was to occur within a municipality where there was a direct policing contract, the organizers would be required to pay for the policing costs attached to that event,” Romanchuk explained. “Because it’s in a provincial area, we need to do this out of the RCMP’s existing budget, and potentially other areas could suffer as a result.”
The Nelson Police Department tracks how much of their call volume is related to people in town for Shambhala.
“The statistics help us know when we need more officers on the street,” Chief Wayne Holland explained.
His figures show that disturbances from Shambhala-bound visitors begin two weeks before the event and spike two weeks after the event.
“Last year our Shambhala-related calls for service accounted for nine per cent of our total call load during the two weeks before, and went up to 15 per cent of total calls one week before,” he said. “Immediately after the festival and for two full weeks following, we see 25 per cent of our calls [involve people that had been at Shambhala] and then it goes down to three per cent and just trickles off.”
He said most of the calls are for relatively minor issues, such as people camping on private property, noise disturbances or public intoxication.
Despite the fact all his officers are busier than normal, with everyone on the force fully deployed, he remains positive about the event.
“Like everyone, we welcome large events like this and think they are good for the local economy,” he said.