Teen dance results in arrests
Kyra Hoggan, The Castlegar Source
A teen dance at the Element recently has caused upset in the community after five kids between 15 and 17 years of age were arrested for drug and alcohol offences.
This, during a teen dance that drew as many as 400 kids, according to Element owner Florio Vassilakakis.
Castlegar RCMP Sgt. Laurel Matthew said five kids were arrested at the dance: two for public intoxication and three for drug possession. Police are only recommending charges be laid against two 17-year-olds in the wake of the event.
“A couple were drinking and generally causing mayhem; there was fighting , there seemed to be a lot of substance abuse,” Matthew said. “Our concern is that there was a lot of ecstasy and what we suspect is Ketamine, which is used as a sedative for horses and can induce hallucinations.
“We don’t know where kids are getting the Ketamine, “she said. “It’s scary. They’re putting stuff in their bodies that they don’t understand.”
She said concerns that this is in any way related to the “LG issue” (older teen boys luring or even drugging young girls to get sex) appear to be unfounded.
“We’ve had no such complaints – that never came up at all,” she said.
Rumours have since reached a fever pitch, with some parents alleging the bar was serving shooters of Red Bull, and Vassilakakis said he’d like to dispel such rumours once and for all.
“We serve water, pop, juice, Monster energy drink – no different than what you’d buy at 7-11, and certainly not in shot glasses,” he said. “There was no alcohol on the shelves, no alcohol advertising or signs – these kids are exposed to more alcohol signage at Boston Pizza than they are here.”
He pointed out that he’s the one who called the police to deal with the few kids who got totally out of line.
“When we catch someone drinking or causing problems, we don’t kick them out into the street, we give them a choice: either we call their parents to come pick them up, or they can go to jail and have their parents pick them up there. Either way, the parents are going to be involved.”
He said the dance is open to kids in Grades 9 through 12, and they’re required to present school identification at the door.
“We have rules. If I see kids making out, I tap them on the shoulder and tell them to stop, just like at a school dance. They’re not allowed to leave and come back, to mitigate people drinking outside,” he said. “We have female staff to check bathrooms and purses, and male staff to pat down boys for alcohol or cigarettes, because I want to ensure a safe environment for these kids.
“It’s no different than a school dance … we’re human, and some kids will manage to sneak stuff in,” he said. “Kids drank long before the Element arrived in Castlegar – it doesn’t make sense to assume the problem is the venue.
“I’m promoting a venue where you can come and have fun without alcohol – they having a great time and can’t wait to come back the next time, and that’s all without drinking.
“If six kids out of 400 choose not to participate in that, that doesn’t mean I’m promoting or enabling underage alcohol use … in fact, the opposite is true. I think it’s unfortunate that six bad apples can wreck the event for the other 99 per cent, who are good kids doing nothing wrong. And those same six bad apples are at the school dances, too, and all the other teen events.
He said parents are welcome to come as well, and spend some time upstairs where they have a bird’s-eye view of the dance below, and he’s open to further changing the rules to offer a safer event.
“Every time we hold these dances, we try to improve on the previous one – I’m not against suggestions,” he said. “We used to allow Grades 8 to 12, because that’s who’s at the high school, but I stopped allowing Grade 8s because I felt they were just too young.”
Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said he’s not sure he’ll support further teen dances, given last Sunday’s antics, but he said the young people involved need to take some responsibility.
“I’m not trying to knock the young adults in this community, but it is disappointing,” he said. “They need to understand that there are consequences here, and there are kids who may be facing criminal charges for this one night – that’ll be with them for the rest of their lives.
“And tragic things happen around drug use – we’re lucky that’s not what happened this time, but when drugs are involved, all bets are off.”
Police are asking anyone with information about Ketamine or other illicit drugs to please contact the RCMP detachment at 250-365-7721 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).