By Jessica Lovell
A proactive approach to keeping revelry in check helped to make this year’s Homecoming Weekend a relatively successful one from the perspective of the Guelph Police Service.
“It’s not to say that things didn’t happen,” said Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin. But although officers were very busy over the weekend, “there were no injuries and no major issues,” he said.
While there were few disturbances during homecoming, police laid a significant number of alcohol-related charges, including putting an end to five keg parties Saturday night and seizing 32 kegs of beer.
“From our perspective, it was like hitting a home run,” said Larkin of the significance of stopping the keggers.
Finding and stopping the keg parties, where it is alleged alcohol was being sold illegally, was a proactive, “intelligence-driven” initiative that sent a message about the need to adhere to liquor licence laws, said Larkin.
“That’s what these types of operations should be; they should be proactive,” he said. The parties – located on Yewholme Drive, Gordon Street South, Sidney Court, Scottsdale Drive and Northumberland Drive – resulted in nine charges under the Liquor Licence Act.
Overall, more than 150 liquor-related charges were laid between Saturday morning and the early hours of Sunday morning.
Building on experiences of last year, the police strategy was to have a staffing plan that worked from 8 a.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday, taking into account two significant crowd-management concerns – celebrations in residential neighbourhoods and in the downtown entertainment district, said Larkin.
“We probably saw our busiest volume in the downtown core with over 10,000 people Saturday night,” he said.
Neighbourhood parties, which are typically associated with celebrations related to the homecoming football game, also generated more work for police officers.
“Throughout the day, we probably, at different times, were at about three times the level of policing,” said Larkin.
Juggling of shifts combined with a little overtime helped to ensure police coverage, not just for the downtown and student neighbourhoods, but also for the rest of the city, he said. But Larkin emphasized that the homecoming strategy was not just a police operation.
“Overall, we had a really collaborative and proactive approach,” he said.
City of Guelph bylaw enforcement also had additional officers working to address increased call volumes; there were more buses to help people get home safe; there were more trash cans to deal with litter, and even volunteers from the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association were out picking up trash, Larkin said.
“We’re very impressed with the operational planning that went into it,” he said of the homecoming strategy.
Complaints from last year were certainly taken into account when planning for this year’s strategy. Those complaints – many of which were related to unruly parties in residential neighbourhoods – were far fewer this year. In fact, positive comments came in instead.
“Our members were in neighbourhoods where people would say, ‘Thank you very much,’ ” said Larkin.
“Overall, things were very respectful and we were able to manage issues with a very positive approach,” said Larkin.
There were some issues that required police intervention during the busy Homecoming Weekend.
The first of these happened at 11:35 a.m. Saturday when a man refused to leave a party at a Harrow Court residence. Two police officers received minor injuries in the struggle when they attempted to remove the man. The 19-year-old Bolton man was charged with refusing to leave the premises, resisting arrest and assaulting police.
Saturday night, a woman’s car was seized and her licence suspended when she was stopped with a man riding in the trunk. The man was charged with a seatbelt violation.
Police also laid four mischief charges.
In one instance Saturday night, a man damaged a parked car on Chancellors Way after he got into an argument with another man.
In another incident, a man broke a window of a downtown business Sunday around 1:45 a.m., after he was denied entry to a Carden Street bar.
Meanwhile, a man smashed a window of a Stone Road business in the early hours of Sunday morning after a fight with another man.
Another mischief charge went to a man for damaging a street sign on the corner of Gordon Street and Stone Road.
Besides these charges incidents, police also laid the following charges:
• 14 public intoxication charges
• 15 underage drinking charges
• 4 charges for consuming alcohol outside of a residence or licensed establishment
• 16 public urination charges
• 3 fake ID charges
• 3 litter/jaywalking charges
• 1 drunk driving charge
• 9 summons issued related to keg parties.