Homecoming deemed a general success

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Mayor, principal, police and AMS all cite ReUnion Street Festival as positive addition to weekend

A Kingston Police officer talks to students on Aberdeen St.
A Kingston Police officer talks to students on Aberdeen St.
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The Sheepdogs performed at the ReUnion Street Festival on Saturday night.
The Sheepdogs performed at the ReUnion Street Festival on Saturday night.
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A young woman was removed from the Queen's Centre on a stretcher.
A young woman was removed from the Queen's Centre on a stretcher.
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Photo: 

Despite a rise in arrests and tickets, various stakeholders in Homecoming said they consider this year’s event to have been a success, owing in part to the inaugural ReUnion Street Festival that took place Saturday night.

Statistics released by the Kingston Police Force (KPF) show that officers issued 163 tickets in total over the weekend and made 24 Homecoming-related arrests.

Most tickets were related to Liquor Licence Act violations, in addition to noise bylaw and Highway Traffic Act offences. Most of the arrests were also in relation to the Liquor Licence Act — specifically public intoxication. Officers also made an impaired driving arrest and at least one breach of the peace arrest.

Over the first Homecoming weekend in 2013, 133 tickets were issued and 16 arrests were made. During the second weekend, 20 tickets were issued and four arrests were made.

The 2013 Homecoming weekends — which took place over Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 18-19 — were the first since 2008. In 2008, after a weekend in which officers made 138 arrests, the University chose to self-impose a two-year ban on Homecoming, extended again for what was supposed to be three years in 2010.

Principal Daniel Woolf said although the weekend was “generally successful”, thanks in part to the festival, Homecoming is still back on a conditional basis.

“I am reasonably confident based on the student performance, which is about equal to last year, that it will be back next year, but no further decisions will be taken until we get all the data in,” Woolf said.

Woolf said he was concerned that there were still too many people on Aberdeen St., but on the whole he was “quite pleased” with the weekend, adding that he hopes the ReUnion Street Festival will become a new Homecoming tradition.

“There’s been a lot more attention to organization of events so people don't feel they need to, have to go to Aberdeen St. to have fun,” he said.

“I think most people appreciate that the event is back, but will only stay back as long as it remains safe and respectful.”

Const. Steve Koopman, KPF media relations officer, said KPF is cautiously optimistic about the result of Homecoming.

“I think we’re seeing a stabilization of partygoers or revelers, and the police response to that, but at the end of the day the statistics reveal only one portion of the entire weekend,” Koopman said.

He said the KPF’s priority isn’t arrests or tickets, but making the area a safe environment for everyone and keeping the peace.

“At the same time too, it’s that unspoken aspect of how everyone feels the relationships were as well, and in that I think it feels more successful in that I was anecdotally hearing some of the officers coming back, and they felt that the majority of Queen’s students, alumni and other attendees … was one of respect,” he said.

Throughout Saturday evening, the KPF maintained a presence on Twitter, answering questions and updating followers on arrests.

Koopman said part of what helped the shift away from a confrontational attitude between officers and students was working in conjunction with various partners, including the mayor’s office, the City, the University administration and the AMS.

Mayor Mark Gerretsen, who sparked controversy and memes with a tweet last year deeming the first Homecoming weekend “not good”, echoed a point made by Koopman about the success of the festival in keeping the weekend calm.

“[The festival was] more successful than anything I’ve witnessed in my lifetime that has tried to combat the problems associated with Homecoming and street parties,” Gerretsen said.

Though parties on Aberdeen St. saw fewer crowds thanks to the festival, he said he doesn’t foresee policing costs changing.

“There was a time where [the city] was spending nearly $300,000 a year [on Homecoming policing costs]," Gerretsen said. "I don’t think we will see a significant cost reduction."

AMS President Allison Williams said the AMS hasn’t yet done a formal debriefing with the University, the City, local residents, students and alumni. The debriefing would go over partners’ metrics for success, including a risk register and success measures document.

“From there we’ll have a pretty good idea of the full picture and how we want to proceed,” said Williams, ArtSci ’14.

She added that the AMS was “very happy” with the festival and student behaviour.

According to AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Philip Lloyd, the festival saw roughly 5,000-6,000 people over the course of the night. Events included a performance by The Sheepdogs, jugglers and archived sports footage.

Lloyd, ConEd ’13, said the cost of putting on the festival was roughly $250,000.

“The hope is that it will continue … [and] that it can become solidified as Homecoming tradition,” he said.

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