2008 appears to be a watershed year in the short history of the Homecoming Aberdeen Street party. At a press conference at City Hall Monday afternoon, Queen’s University and city officials expressed the need for a change in approach to dealing with the event.
Police said a total of 138 arrests were made over the weekend, with 105 of these made on Saturday night.
Additionally, 619 provincial offence tickets were issued. According to Kingston police, the majority of these were alcohol related. Nine criminal charges were laid.
Insp. Brian Cookman of the Kingston Police said the safety of those attending the unsanctioned street party has become more of a concern.
“We know through the information that people are coming for an unbridled insane weekend just to party,” he said. “It’s becoming edgier and it has been described as more dangerous.” Cookman said the current police Homecoming protocol must be placed under further review.
“The consensus is that we have to look at alternative measures. The approach which has been adopted over the past four years has not been successful in the goals that we have set for ourselves.”
Cookman told the Journal this change in focus comes as a result of the noticeable increase in out of town partygoers flooding the street. Queen’s students constituted a minority of those who were apprehended.
“I haven’t crunched it down that tight yet; we are in the neighborhood of 20 per cent of those arrested as being identified as Queen’s students. … This has morphed into something that has more attraction to outsiders for reasons other than what the weekend; actually means.”
Police caught 474 traffic violators over the weekend. 290 of these were Liquor License Act violations.
Despite the Beer Store’s ban on the sale of kegs of beer during Homecoming, police reported seven keggers, with 18 kegs seized, 78 charges laid and $1,795 in cash confiscated between Friday and Saturday nights.
Cookman said the total cost of the police presence at the Aberdeen Street party has yet to be finalized. “It cost us about $135,000 in overtime. … It’ll take us at least a month until we can officially confirm these numbers.”
Cookman said another major concern was the transitory nature of this year’s event as crowds spread beyond Aberdeen Street onto Victoria Street, Johnson Street and University Avenue.
“We saw a lot more people on the south side of Johnson Street and that’s a major concern to us because it’s a major street and we need to keep that street open,” he said.
Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen said the Aberdeen Working Group’s plans to put an end to the street party by 2009 are no longer feasible.
“The street party appears to be growing; it appears to be changing character. … The numbers and the overall trend looks like it will not be eliminated by 2009.”
Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said any proposed action by the working group must be re-evaluated to adapt to the increase in the street party’s attendance.
“We were looking at 2009 as part of a four to five year plan when the initiative was introduced,” he said. “Because the numbers have not gone down, and they’ve gone up, it’s impossible to imagine the elimination of Aberdeen with the existing strategies by 2009.”
Principal Tom Williams told the Journal the University has to change its approach to cleaning up Homecoming.
“The current strategy is we thought that we could educate members of the Queen’s community that it wasn’t a cool place to be. Because the event has grown in size and numbers, it’s no longer an option.”
Williams said he will be meeting with the Joint City-University Committee, alumni and representatives from downtown businesses to discuss alternative ways to approach Homecoming in the future.
“We’re going to be looking at changes in 2009. …We are going to be looking, discussing these changes within the next four to six weeks,” he said.
“We are set to start the review as soon as possible. In my case it will be starting after the board meeting this weekend.”
AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye agreed change must be made.
“There’s definitely a feeling that maybe lots of volunteers felt uncomfortable. So many people there had nothing to do with Queen’s. That alone suggests that we should have more serious conversations about that than we have in the past.”
Tye said the Aberdeen Red Hat volunteer initiative might also require re-evaluation.
“The nature of the crowd suggests that the work that they’re doing is not as effective as it once was. … This is really time for discussion. We’ll keep students as engaged as possible during the discussion process.”
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