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Fines, evictions jump in Thetis Lake park crackdown

A crackdown on illegal activity at Thetis Lake Regional Park has led to a dramatic jump in fines, evictions and liquor violations over the past two weekends, statistics show.
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The Capital Regional District has bolstered enforcement at Thetis Lake Regional Park over the past two weeks in the wake of a number of incidents.

A crackdown on illegal activity at Thetis Lake Regional Park has led to a dramatic jump in fines, evictions and liquor violations over the past two weekends, statistics show.

A report going to the Capital Regional District board this coming week shows there were 28 evictions from the park on the August long weekend and 53 the previous weekend. That’s compared with just one eviction the weekend before the crackdown began.

The report does not explain the reasons behind the evictions, but Andy Orr, CRD’s senior manager of corporate communications, said bylaw officers would typically attempt to ticket someone for open liquor or another bylaw infraction.

Scofflaws would be asked to leave the park if they refuse to comply, get caught for a repeat offence or behave aggressively, he said.

In some cases, police would be called to assist with the removal.

The CRD has doubled the number of patrol hours at the park over the past two weekends after the View Royal Fire Department was called to the lake three times on the weekend of July 19-21.

In one incident, a 15-year-old was found unconscious and apparently intoxicated on a trail, while another male was injured after drinking and jumping from a cliff into the lake.

The department’s response at the time was hindered by illegally parked vehicles, the CRD report says.

Since then, the district has shifted resources from other parks to deal with the issues at Thetis Lake.

“This will double the compliance and enforcement presence at Thetis Lake, but will weaken the presence in other parks,” the report says. “The CRD is also taking a less tolerant approach to alcohol and parking violations.”

The statistics show that patrol hours at Thetis increased to 35 from 19 the first weekend of the crackdown and climbed again to 44.5 hours over the long weekend.

The number of liquor violations jumped to 26 from 18 the first weekend of the crackdown. There were 23 violations last weekend.

Bylaw officers, meanwhile, handed out nine tickets for bylaw infractions last weekend and 14 the week before, compared with none prior to the start of the stepped-up enforcement program.

View Royal officials reported this past week that the increased enforcement presence is already having a positive impact.

Fire Chief Paul Hurst said his department had not been called to the park since the crackdown began, and View Royal Mayor David Screech praised the district’s swift response.

The report, meanwhile, shows a dramatic decline in reported violations at the park in the past 10 years. Liquor violations alone dropped from about 5,000 in 2009 to 476 last year.

“We believe the tougher laws on drinking and driving have had an effect over time,” Larisa Hutcheson, general manager of parks and environmental services, said in a statement Friday.

Staff also believe past statistics may reflect total interactions with officers rather than violations, which also might explain the higher numbers a decade ago.

The report notes that, historically, CRD staff have worked closely with the region’s RCMP detachments to deal with more serious issues in parks.

“In more recent years, limited resources at the West Shore RCMP detachment have hindered their capacity to commit to enforcement patrols at Thetis Lake,” the report states.

“The presence of the RCMP is arguably the greatest deterrent to alcohol use at the park.”

A statement from West Shore RCMP on Friday did not directly address the issue of limited resources, but said the detachment remains committed to responding to calls for service within Thetis Lake Regional Park.

RCMP were out in force Thursday, responding to reports of a couple with weapon entering the park. The suspects were found in possession of a replica handgun and will have to appear in court, police said.

lkines@timescolonist.com