Ambulances and fire trucks responded to a party in the Wedgeport area on April 12 that was attended, reportedly, by hundreds of young people. Assistance was required after something was sprayed at the party. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The RCMP say social media hasn’t just changed the size of parties attended by young people, it has caused the RCMP to look at how to best use its resources to make sure young people are getting home safely when parties swell into the hundreds.
Staff Sergeant Michel Lacroix of the Yarmouth Rural RCMP Detachment says when they hear that a party is going to be attended by a large number of young people – possibly in the hundreds – the RCMP’s top priority becomes road safety.
A recent example of this was on Saturday, April 12, when a very large party was held in the Wedgeport area. The RCMP heard about the party on Saturday and responded by putting out checkpoints Saturday night and into the wee hours of Sunday morning throughout the area to ensure people were not drinking and driving.
Lacroix says a lot has changed from parties today compared to parties a decade or more ago. Whereas before word spread about parties at school or by word of mouth, now word spreads rapidly across various social media platforms.
“Back in the day you maybe told 20 or 30 people,” he says. “Now you can tell hundreds or thousands of people.”
In this case, hundreds of people were reportedly at the party this past weekend.
At 1:30 a.m. EHS ambulances and fire trucks from the Wedgeport fire department were on the scene tending to some of the party goers after some sort of substance had been sprayed at the party.
“There was a call for assistance there,” Lacroix says. “I don’t know if it was bear mace, that’s what they say, but it was never proven. But some people got sprayed with something.”
Sgt. Lacroix says the RCMP doesn’t have “an army” of resources to dedicate to dealing with large house parties, including those that have the potential to spiral out of control. Still, in rural areas it can be easier to control the comings and goings of people in vehicles as there is often only limited access routes to the party.
Still, Lacroix says, you may only have five or six policemen having to deal with hundreds of people. And like word of the party did, word of police checkpoints spreads as well.
“As soon as they see a police car or a checkpoint it flares up again and everybody’s cellphone is on and they all know where we are,” Lacroix says, although sometimes this can still achieve the desired outcome.
“They make sure there are sober drivers,” he says, adding about this past weekend, “We didn’t catch any impaired drivers that night.”
There were also many taxis bringing party goers home.
Lacroix says although this past weekend the RCMP had a presence on the roads, they don’t hear about large parties far enough in advance to coordinate large numbers of resources.
“As of Friday I don’t think we knew this was going to happen on Saturday,” he says about the recent party.
Lacroix acknowledges there is underage drinking and illegal possession of alcohol occurring at parties, but when faced with certain types of situations the RCMP needs to plan how to best use its limited resources, while also keeping in mind that there are other things happening on weekends that will also require RCMP attention or attendance.
“Before you went to a party and there were 20 or 30 people and with the resources you’ve got working that night you can walk through and if kids are walking around with a beer you can arrest them, you can charge them, you can call their parents,” Lacroix says. “But the thing with a huge crowd, when you get into the hundreds and the party was planned only a few hours earlier, it’s a different response.
“We’re not going to overlook the underage drinking, but we’re going to look at the bigger issue,” he says. “I’ve got to make sure that the resources are put at the right place. It’s about the car accidents that are more dangerous than a kid drinking his first beer behind a tree.”
In saying all of this, Lacroix adds that parents have an important role to play.
“The parents should know where their kids are and what they’re doing. They should also be looking after them. We’re not there to parent the kids,” Lacroix says. “Sometimes we’re criticized by parents who say, ‘you knew they was something and you didn’t do anything,’ but what about the parents? What were they doing that night? The responsibility lies on them as well.”