Police encounter few problems at Penticton grad party

About 200 Grade 12 students attended unsanctioned event that in past has been marred by tragedy

RCMP said an illegal grad party held by Penticton students on Monday night took place without any serious incidents.

“We had four extra officers on and there was about 200 kids. There were no real issues this year fortunately,” said Sgt. Rick Dellebuur. “There were tickets issued for liquor infractions and marijuana seized.”

The partygoers were taking part in an annual event that has been dubbed a sunset party, taking place the evening before the last day of school. Other years the event has been marred by fights, vehicle accidents and tragedy. In 2011, a Grade 11 student was stabbed to death. Dellebuur noted that in the following year the numbers dwindled down to about 12 revellers at the controversial party that is not sanctioned by the school district. He feels the party a slap in the face to those who organize dry grad events.

“If parents put their foot down it may not stop it all together, but when you have 200 kids partying the year before, cut down to half a dozen or so, the risk of someone getting hurt or killed drops,” he said. “We always hear both sides of the argument about these parties and parents saying they don’t want to disappoint their kids by not letting them go and be with their peers. From the standpoint of not only a police officer but as a father, I know that disappointment to kids only lasts a few days, someone getting hurt or killed lasts a lifetime.”

This year RCMP said there were no accidents and just a few noise complaints. Partygoers started their evening at a property on Carmi, but the owner decided they didn’t want the students there and called RCMP. Dellebuur said officers arrived at the scene around 6 p.m. and suggested the students go home, but instead the party moved to the Greyback area.

“We conducted road checks and were looking for drinking driver infractions. We only have so many resources and for four officers to walk into a crowd of 200 kids to enforce rules is not feasible. We do the best we can to discourage the illegal party and enforce what we can to ultimately ensure everyone is safe, including those who aren’t at the party because we have to watch for drunk drivers and people driving who may not have had a lot of sleep,” said Dellebuur.

Other years officers have had to break up fights from undesirables who joined the outdoor party, have been subject to objects such as beer bottles being launched at them and arrived on the scene of rolled-over vehicles. Dellebuur said the students were lucky that this year there were no accidents or real issues.

“These things are always hit and miss. There is always a chance for things to go bad, and basically because we are not aware of any problems this year, doesn’t mean these things are safe,” he added.

Penticton RCMP also assisted in Summerland last week when students held their own illegal grad party in the Faulder area.