Mayor takes issue to Principal over Homecoming

Mayor Mark Gerretsen claims the University should pay the City for policing the Student Ghetto during Homecoming

Kingston Police keeping students at bay on Aberdeen St. Saturday night.
Kingston Police keeping students at bay on Aberdeen St. Saturday night.
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Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen is calling for the University to cover the City’s policing costs following Saturday’s unsanctioned Aberdeen St. party.

Hundreds of students gathered on Aberdeen St. Saturday night, while the Kingston Police Force (KPF) deployed 103 officers to police the area.

The KPF reported six arrests and 133 tickets during the weekend. Roughly one-third of the tickets were issued to Queen’s students, police said.

During the last official Homecoming in 2008, there were 138 arrests and 687 tickets given out on Homecoming weekend.

Gerretsen, who said the past weekend was extremely costly to the City, said the number of arrests and tickets issued represents a downward trend in offences witnessed over the past four years.

“So I’m looking, from the University in the short term, for some kind of payment, some kind of trade-off for the massive amount of resources that the City of Kingston put into it,” he said.

Following the street party, Gerretsen said he called Principal Daniel Woolf to share his concerns, stating that two Homecoming events may even worsen the situation.

“Are we going to have all these costs again in two weeks? Then the problem is twice as bad as it was in 2008 and before that,” he said.

Despite this, the City has yet to calculate the total cost, he noted, as a full expense report hasn’t yet been submitted by the KPF.

He added, though, that many of the police working Saturday night were being paid overtime and costs will also be attributed to behind-the-scenes work at police headquarters and for medical services.

Woolf addressed Gerretsen’s phone call in a statement released Monday morning, saying that the issue of policing costs will be open to discussion after Homecoming finishes.

Woolf told the Journal that he can’t say whether Homecoming will return next year, as it will depend on the events of the next Homecoming weekend.

“We still have one more weekend,” he said. “After that we will sit down with our partners to evaluate how this year went and what the plan might be moving forward.”

Although grateful for events run by Queen’s staff and volunteers and the efforts of Kingston police, Woolf said he was less pleased with the Saturday street party.

“I would like to see fewer people – including but not limited to students and alumni – gathering in large numbers in the near-campus area,” he said via email.

“[But] I think that the majority of students were respectful of each other, the police and the Kingston community,” he said.

Steve Koopman, KPF media relations officer, said the police saw an improvement in student behaviour compared to previous years.

“We were cautiously optimistic and think it turned out well, it obviously has been worse and statistically it shows that as well,” he said.

“Queen’s and AMS … have done a great job pushing the message ‘don’t mess it up’, and to really try and drive home that there is some personal attachment, or responsibility, to [Homecoming],” he added.

The police focused on crowd control on Aberdeen St. by asking students to stay off the streets and sidewalks, Koopman said.

“[Students] questioned why, and we stated it was for public safety reasons. We’re trying to make sure nobody is going to get hit by a vehicle,” he said.

Koopman said the KPF saw a mutual respect between students and officers, but there’s still room for improvement.

“We did hear some rumours about some students and persons attending wanting to potentially take [Aberdeen St.]. There’s still that danger,” he said.

Regatu Asefa said she remained wary of the police during her time on Aberdeen St. on Saturday.

“Cops are being more aggressive I think than they need to be. I was told by the same cop four times to get on the sidewalk, but there [wasn’t] room on the sidewalk,” Asefa, ConEd ’16, told the Journal Saturday night.

Asefa added that she was surprised students’ behaviour was in check.

“It’s calmer than I thought it would be,” she said.

- With files from Abby Andrew and Vincent Ben Matak

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