By Jessica Lovell
People can expect to see more police patrols, not just on Sunday but all weekend long, as locals begin to get their green on for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Guelph Police Service will be enhancing their patrols, not only downtown, but in the neighbourhoods as well,” said Ward 2 councillor Ian Findlay, a member of Guelph’s Downtown Nightlife Task Force. With St. Paddy’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, the associated revelry may be less on the actual holiday, but people can be expected to start the holiday a little early – on Friday and Saturday nights, he said.
The police service will be deploying enhanced patrols to match.
“We definitely have a significant policing plan in place,” said Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin. “With (St. Patrick’s Day) coming on a Sunday this year, we’re actually predicting it will be more weekend-based.”
The plan is “largely based around visibility” and will include more foot patrols, bike patrols – depending on the weather – and both marked and unmarked police patrols, said Larkin.
But St. Patrick’s Day is different from some other holidays in that revelry has traditionally been very neighbourhood-based, he said, noting that enhanced patrols will target south-end and central neighbourhoods.
The plan will also include a proactive approach.
“Guelph Police Service is monitoring social media to find out where the big parties are going to be,” noted Findlay.
The police service will also be posting updates on Twitter to add to an increased awareness of the enhanced police activities, said Larkin.
The police have been working closely with other stakeholders, such as the nightlife task force, bar owners, bylaw enforcement and the University of Guelph, to help ensure the weekend goes smoothly, he said.
People who have concerns about unwanted activity in their neighbourhoods are being encouraged to call police, so bylaw officers can attend to the issue.
Some university initiatives include a public awareness campaign focusing on behaviour in the community and potential fines, and visits to homes that have already warranted visits this year, said Brenda Whiteside, the U of G’s associate vice-president of student affairs.
An message went out by email to all students to promote safe and respectful celebration, she said in an email.
Peer teams will be out in the community on Sunday “to touch base early with houses that are having parties and to clean up litter on sidewalks,” she said.
But although many revelers are expected to make their way downtown, none of the pilot initiatives to curb disorder that were tried in early September as part of Project Safe Semester will be back this weekend.
“We will not be closing the streets. We will not be bringing in portable washrooms,” said Findlay.
The decision not to close streets is partly budget-related, as neither the city nor the police service has money in their budgets for street closures, he said.
But close attention will also be paid to how the weekend goes without these initiatives in order to incorporate the information into future planning, he said.
Taxi stands will also not be back this weekend, but students will have their usual Thursday, Friday and Saturday night access to the Magic Bus late-night bus service, as well as Sunday service.
“It doesn’t normally operate on Sunday night, but it will this weekend,” said Findlay.
The idea is to encourage safe holiday fun for all.
“We’re encouraging people to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, have fun, but play respectfully,” Findlay said.