Police warn North Shore pre-grad partiers
It's that time of year again and police are warning North Shore high schoolers that they're hip to their pre-grad party plans this Labour Day weekend.
No one's really sure how the tradition began, but for years now soon-to-be-graduates of North and West Vancouver high schools have gathered for raucous bush parties near their schools on the night before starting their Grade 12 year.
Drinking, drugging, vandalism and violence have marred these rite-of-passage celebrations in the past, with 2010 still fresh in the minds of some police and emergency responders as a year they'd rather not repeat.
It was then, two years ago, that out-of-hand pre-grad parties had North Van Mounties, paramedics and firefighters responding to everything from drug-dealing and multiple violent assaults to acute alcohol intoxication and one dangerously out-of-control bonfire.
"It was a bad year," North Van RCMP spokesman Cpl. Richard De Jong told The Outlook Monday.
And while last year showed a marked improvement, police aren't taking any chances this time around.
"We patrol specific high school properties, we work with the school district, parks and rec and the fire department just so we're all on the same page," De Jong said.
Police in both North and West Van will confiscate alcohol and issue fines for underage drinking and drug-use wherever appropriate.
But the most effective tools the police have to prevent a repeat of 2010 may be the preemptive discussions they are having with students before leaving their schools in June.
"We meet with them prior to leaving in Grade 11 and say, 'Hey, look we're aware of your tradition and want to celebrate your success as well, but let's do it in a safe manner," De Jong said. "And we are seeing, hopefully, a turn for more responsible behaviour."
Failing that, both the North Van Mounties and the West Van police say they will step up patrols this weekend around all North Shore high schools, trail heads, parks and wooded areas where pre-grad parties have occurred in the past.
Acting spokesman for the West Van police, Sgt. Paul Skelton said his department relies on its school liaison officers and the public at large to let police know about pre-grad parties before they begin or as they are happening. He added that due to the weather conditions this year, police, paramedics and fire services will be extra vigilant.
"Certainly there's a heightened concern this time of year with the little rainfall we've gotten about fire hazards in local parks and it's pretty dry up in the wooded areas," Skelton said. "So it's a concern to us if they start bonfires or cigarettes or that sort of thing."