Police prepare for a rowdy weekend

Chief Closs expects wild Homecoming following busy Frosh Week

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Homecoming 2007 is still two weeks away, but Kingston police are readying themselves for a wild weekend following a Frosh Week they say was rowdier than most.

With 36 charges laid on Sept. 5 alone, additional staff patrolled the Ghetto in the following days.

“This was my 12th Frosh Week, and this certainly was the busiest. There were more parties, more crowds, and the activities were more spread out,” said Police Chief Bill Closs. “If there was expression of disappointment, it was simply because so many partners are working so hard to get all of the people to party in a quieter, lawful way, but I think there was quite a bit of disappointment.”

Closs said he expects Homecoming crowds this year to be similar to previous years, when several thousand people crowded onto Aberdeen Street on the Saturday of Homecoming weekend.

After Homecoming 2005, when a car was flipped and set on fire, calls to curb the weekend’s activities intensified. “My prediction was that we felt that we would still have quite a crowd this particular year, but we had anticipated that there would be less people coming looking for trouble,” he said. “We’re still expecting a big crowd. We would be disappointed if there was any increase in unlawful activity.”

Because of the need for increased police presence in the Queen’s community during Homecoming weekend, police officers must be pulled from other areas of the city.

Closs said stripping officers away from other neighbourhoods where emergency response is required is unfair to both residents and police officers.

“Because [officers] know it takes them longer to respond, they’re under more pressure, and there’s more anxiety.” he said. “That works on the mindset and the behaviour of the police officers. It makes the police officers’ job on the street more difficult.”

As with Homecoming 2006, members of the Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto police will be present for extra security.

“As we did last year, the Ontario Provincial Police are coming to town, so is the Toronto police, and various other agencies, municipal police services from central and eastern Ontario,” Closs said.

Although the weekend was hailed as a tentative success compared to the year before, Closs said more charges were made in 2006 than in previous years.

“In 2006 Homecoming we laid more charges than we ever had before, which was well over 400,” he said.

Closs said the police won’t take unlawful activity lightly this Homecoming weekend.

“We have certainly no intent to lighten our enforcement.”

Closs said the cost of Homecoming is always significant, and expects this year to be no exception.

“We’ve always estimated it at over $200,000 for the Kingston police, and it certainly won’t be any less this year if things unfold as we expect they will,” he said.

Closs said Homecoming partygoers need to be responsible for their actions.

“These people that are out there having a great time drinking and partying, but my point and our point is that that has a negative effect on innocent people in other neighbourhoods, the people that live in the partying neighbourhoods, and the people that have to deal with them,” he said.

Although police have been planning for this weekend since Homecoming 2006, Closs said it’s impossible to prepare for an event this large.

“I have learned never to predict anything as to what might happen between the community and the police, because you end up putting your foot in your mouth,” he said. “I always have the same line: to be honest, and that is we’re planning based on what we read, see, what our intelligence is gathering, based on past experiences, based on what’s happening now, and what happens on Homecoming. We will just do the best job we can.”

Although parties and crowds can be regulated, Closs said he would never call Homecoming a successful event.

“I never call Homecoming a success, because you can’t call it a success if there’s a whole bunch of people breaking the law,” he said. “What we’re hoping for is that we can get through that night as peaceful as possible, and as safe as possible for the people that live in that area, for the partygoers, for the citizens and the police. We play the cards we’re dealt with.”

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