From June 21 to July 2, during Ponoka Stampede and the days leading up to it, the Ponoka RCMP detachment fielded a total of 341 calls for service, up slightly from 333 last year.
Although there were a few more calls this year, the incidents were less serious, according to Sgt. Christopher Smiley, acting commander of the Ponoka detachment. Some of the calls also represent “business as usual” and were unrelated to Stampede events.
The RCMP starts tracking its statistics for Stampede week as few days prior to the start of events, as visitors and campers begin arriving in town.
Calls included five assaults (one that was determined to be unfounded), one assault with bear spray, 10 missing persons reports, 52 incidents of people causing a disturbance, 18 incidents of mischief, 16 thefts, five impaired driving, one alcohol-related roadside suspension and six reported break and enters (all but one were unfounded).
In one case, an individual used bear spray as a weapon while on Stampede grounds, affecting multiple people. That incident resulted in an arrest.
In other cases, members were able to seize bear spray before the individuals had a chance to use them, preventing more serious incidents from occurring.
According to Smiley, the bear spray incidents were gang-related.
There were also 11 calls related to the Mental Health Act and 181 tickets issued for various provincial offences, including 127 for speeding — mostly on Hwy. 2.
There were 18 additional tickets issued within town limits, nine of which were liquor act violations.
There was a sudden death of a carnival worker on June 28. The worker was a female in her 30s from B.C., and the incident is not considered suspicious. No further information is available at this time.
On June 30, a man who was not seated properly on the tractor-pulled “people mover” shuttle fell off and was run over, sustaining serious injuries. He was transported to the Red Deer Regional Hospital via ambulance.
Smiley stated the Ponoka Stampede was not at fault in any way, as the individual fell due to his own behaviour. Alcohol may have been a factor.
About 80 individuals were taken into custody for various reasons, including being drunk and disorderly among other offences. A group of people had repeat visits to the “drunk tank” and were released when sober, making a total of 98 prisoners, up from 64 last year.
Undoubtedly, Stampede week is a busy time for the Ponoka detachment. For comparison, there were 218 calls for service in the 11 days previous to the beginning of the Stampede statistics.
However, considering 80,000 came through the gates this year, 98 people in cells is a relatively small percentage.
“It’s a pretty low portion of the people who came out to have a good time.”
Smiley says the RCMP likes to balance enforcement with proactive policing without being too strong-armed, allowing people to enjoy the event.
“The support we received this year was overwhelming,” he said, adding the stakeholders of the event were very supportive and feedback from the public was generally positive.
Smiley says he was thanked on the street numerous times for the work the detachment was doing, and he says “I like to think that our presence and accessibility definitely played a part in keeping the event peaceful.
“Thank you Ponoka for another great Stampede.”