Fall University District partying cost City over $1 million

University Avenue on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Street parties in the University District in September and October ran up a soberingly large bill for policing, bylaw and cleanup costs.

Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely noted that the Kingston Police Force costs, which included policing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for those two months, totalled $437,537.09. “Additionally,” Chief McNeely noted, “the cost of bringing in other police forces was $410,288.67.”

On weekends such as Oct. 15-17, where attendance at street parties was in the thousands, and risk of serious injury, assault, and damage was the highest, KPF was assisted by neighbouring police forces such as Belleville, Gananoque, Brockville, and Smiths Falls, as well as police forces from further away such as York, Durham, Toronto, and OPP officers from detachments throughout Ontario.

“Providing accommodations, meals, and supplies to those police forces accounted for an additional $145,607.89,” Chief McNeely noted, “for a total of $993,433.65” in policing costs alone.

These figures do not include the additional costs for Bylaw Enforcement, which were $83,000 according to the City, nor other costly items like street and park cleanup after mass gatherings, or repairs and replacement, at about $500 a piece, of the dozens of street signs damaged or stolen over the past few months.

Mayor Bryan Paterson addressed the issue of how those bills would be paid. “There’s no question that the policing response was very expensive. And so, I think the the contribution from Queen’s was certainly important, and I think it was right — Queen’s certainly needs to pay its fair share.”

Mark Erdman, Manager of Community Relations at Queen’s University, agreed with Mayor Paterson. In an email statement, Erdman noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic led to unusual demands, and in discussion with the City it was agreed that a contribution of $350,000 — which was announced in October — was an appropriate way to further support efforts and the additional services required to keep the community safe.”

Erdman added that this was not the first payment that Queen’s has made to offset policing costs in the University District, but that it is the largest to date. “Queen’s has a longstanding history of contributing to the City in recognition of the additional implications and costs for city services supporting an institution of its size in this community. This payment represents a 350 per cent increase over previous contributions of $100,000/year which the university made between 2013 and 2019 and recognizes the exceptional challenges that the city has faced during the COVID pandemic.”

Mayor Paterson added that responsibility to bear the cost should also lie with the individuals who caused the disruptions. “I think when we’re looking at the gap, my perspective is that the people who violated the city bylaws, the people that broke the rules, that caused problems, and that received the fines, they should be contributing and paying for the policing costs as well. Since the fall, we’ve made well over half a million dollars in fines. And so I think that that revenue will also be used to help offset some of the policing costs. Then we’ll have to see if there’s still a gap after that and what that looks like, but I’ve been clear with [Chief McNeely] that as a city, we would work with them to make sure that any gap is covered.”

Kingston Police had been monitoring activities both online and offline since students moved in, Chief McNeely said, and their observations informed their decisions to bring outside police forces to assist on key weekends. She noted that it became clear relatively early on that additional enforcement would be needed, given what Kingston Police saw on social media through the year, particularly with Youtubers and other social media influencers inciting greater numbers of partiers and more extreme behaviours in other University cities in Ontario, such as Guelph and London.

“Those are ongoing discussions,” said Chief McNeely, saying that municipalities share insight and strategies to provide the best possible support. “We regularly debrief about what works, and we’re constantly learning, and we certainly give lots of thought to enforcement measures taken during events like Homecoming and Fauxcoming.”

Although street parties in the University District are not a recent phenomenon, Mayor Paterson echoed Chief McNeely’s concerns that there are behavioural changes being seen in the past few years that seem to be symptomatic of a widespread social issue. “What I have seen that has really changed, is that this has really become an issue in a lot of other university towns and cities, far more than in the past. It used to be the mayor of Waterloo and I that primarily discussed the issue of large unsanctioned street parties. But this fall, it’s been the mayor of London, and the mayor of Guelph, and Waterloo, and the mayor of Ottawa, and the mayor of Hamilton, you know, this is something that has almost become like a circuit of unsanctioned street parties.”

Mayor Paterson added that this makes a collaborative approach all the more necessary. “I think that this has really created the foundation for what I think the next step needs to be, which is for university cities to band together, and really push hard for change both at a provincial level and also to the post-secondary institutions as a whole. I think that it’s time for us collectively to say, ‘This is a costly, damaging, and disrespectful pattern that has to stop.’ And so we’re going to work together to do that.”

Chief McNeely recalled that the last time such drastic policing measures had to be taken in Kingston was in 2010 and 2011, but that even so, this past fall was unique in that it included two Homecomings – the official weekend and another, unofficial “Fauxcoming”, which was largely driven by student organizers and social media influencers.

In addition, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought unique risk factors to the problem of large-scale parties. This added to the irresponsibility of those who organized, encouraged, and attended the events, said Erdman. “The University has been clear that large unsanctioned group gatherings near campus are dangerous and irresponsible — particularly during a pandemic — and put the entire Kingston and Queen’s community at risk.”

Erdman noted that the intersecting challenges must be addressed together, and with long-term goals in sight. “Our universities, and our society, are grappling with significant social issues that require working together on strategies that will lessen the burden on city and other social services, particularly our health care system, not only during the pandemic but as we recover from its impact,” Erdman wrote. “The challenges we face are complex and we know solutions will require an ongoing and evolving dialogue. As members of the Kingston community, we are committed to doing the work alongside our partners that is required to introduce real and lasting positive change.”

Both Chief McNeely and Mayor Paterson said that their thoughts are already turning to St. Patrick’s Day, and how lessons learned this fall will be used to lessen the risks from such revelries. “That’s going to be a real focus for us, said Mayor Paterson. “Right now, we’re very focused on the current COVID surge, and ultimately, there’s still a lot of unknowns at this point about what March will even look like. But we want to make sure that we’re prepared, and so those discussions will proceed in earnest as we move into the new year, so that we’re prepared for what that police response will be but also how it’s going to be paid for, and who is going to pay for it.”

4 thoughts on “Fall University District partying cost City over $1 million

  • Invoice Queen’s their stellar leadership is responsible, and they can afford it.

  • Wow, for $400K plus you didn’t get to beat up any students or club them into the ground. I mean you did your best didn’t you. You sent riot police to a street party with 17 year olds wearing shorts making tiktok videos. Teargas, clubs, marching like you were ready to take down a terrorist hoard, you get a lot of bang for your wasted $400K. Commanding threats of imposing the mayor’s fiats–how embarrassed must those cops have been to be deployed to a keg party in riot gear. AMPS, AMPS, do what you are commanded otherwise we’ll demand money from you without any legal recourse through real Courts. Meanwhile, those pesky kids. All they did was talk, sneak beers in public, catch up with friends, and take video of the overreaction by law enforcement. The mayor’s goon squad– stymied by kids who wouldn’t riot.

    • “Meanwhile” all they did was deliberately spike a pandemic, and everyone knows it.

  • Such policing costs should be covered by fines. A slap on the wrist certainly doesn’t work and we cannot expect any assistance from Queen’s University administration.

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!