Town-gown standoff

Another Christmas break has gone by, and with it, another spate of break-ins in and around the Ghetto. Most Queen’s students don’t seem to be the least bit taken aback by this state of affairs; it seems to be viewed more as a part of student life—along with missing street signs, unkempt streets and garbage and recycling services that are somewhat less than ideal. Apart from the ubiquitous police cars and one weekend a year—you can guess which one I’m referring to—the Ghetto seems to be ignored by Kingston police services and City Council.

The most dangerous part of this relationship is the seeming indifference regarding the number of break-ins that occur over the holidays each year. According to the AMS, residents of the Ghetto were five times more likely than other Kingston residents to have their homes broken into over the break last year. This is one problem that can’t be blamed on the students or the University, and I believe the current situation is unacceptable.

Short of staying in Kingston to stand guard, there’s little students can do to guarantee the safety of their homes over the holidays. And so we must accept the unpleasant reality that we may very well have our possessions stolen and that those responsible will almost certainly not be apprehended. The AMS Holiday Housechecks are a good idea, but they can’t—and don’t—go far enough. Moreover, the vast majority of Ghetto houses aren’t under the University’s jurisdiction and it’s the responsibility of the city and police services to maintain safety and order.

If students feel they’re being neglected by the city, it should be no surprise that this in turn causes them to be alienated from it. This disconnect is part of what causes the destructiveness and disregard for authority seen every fall on Homecoming weekend. I’m not trying to suggest widespread burglaries every December are directly responsible for the irresponsible actions of a minority of students the following autumn. However, it seems to me that the chaos of the very real possibility of having your rented house be ransacked—with rare repercussions—lends the Ghetto a rather “lawless” atmosphere that perpetuates general anarchy when the opportunity presents itself, i.e. a drunken street party smack in the middle of the neighbourhood.

I really can’t point the finger of blame at either the city or the students in this case, but it’s clear that something needs to change to make life more bearable for everyone.

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