Kingston Police attribute ‘respectful’ student behaviour to improved communication for St. Patrick’s Day 2024

Police walk among St. Patrick’s Day revellers in the University District on Saturday, Mar. 16, 2024. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

The University District’s Saint Patrick’s Day festivities in 2024 were a vast improvement over past years, according to Kingston Police.

On Thursday, Apr. 11, 2024, Chief of Police Scott Fraser and Inspector Matt Funnell published their report on last month’s Saint Patrick’s Day policing activities in the city. The report expands on initial data shared by Kingston Police following the weekend of activity, and looks at the overall strategies employed by police. The report concludes that 2024 St. Patrick’s Day festivities differed significantly from those in 2023. It finds that better-behaved students and a much more respectful and educated crowd were the result of hard work by the Kingston Police Liaison Team, effective messaging, and the impact of a strict and consistent enforcement strategy — all leading to fewer injuries and less chaos.

St. Patrick’s Day was on Sunday, Mar. 17, 2024. Because it fell on a weekend and taking previous years’ activities into account, the report notes that police were also forced to plan for potential mass gatherings in the University District on Saturday, Mar. 16, 2023. 

Over the past few years, police have used online polling to establish the most popular day for the largest party crowd. This approach, however, is not conclusive. Fraser noted, “When March 17 falls in proximity to a weekend, it has become necessary for our planning to consider the potential for mass gatherings beyond just the actual St. Patrick’s Day.” 

The report presents examples of the constant influx of information and intelligence police gather to illustrate the fluidity of the event and the complications encountered when organizing the appropriate deployment of police resources.

Canadian Party Life (CPL) is an Instagram account and website that bills itself as a showcase of  “Canadian party and pop culture content.” With a large community across its social media platforms, Canadian Party Life posts daily campus videos and pictures submitted by college and university students across Canada. 

Social media posts on Canadian Party Life on February 19, 2024 gathered information about what partying could be expected at which schools across Canada. Image from report.

According to the report, on February 19, 2024, a post on Canadian Party Life gathered information about what partying could be expected at which schools across Canada. On the same day, sources from within the campus residences and other units that work closely with students reported, “There is a high expectation at present of increased external student participation (friends from other colleges and universities) coming to town Friday evening, staying overnight, with the majority of activity occurring Saturday daytime (Aberdeen) into Saturday evening (Hub/downtown).”

On March 4, 2024, Kingston Police learned that the City of Kingston planned to host a concert in Market Square on Sunday, Mar. 17, 2024, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The event, which would feature various bands made up of Queen’s students, was intended to give students an alternative to the street party in the University District, thereby relieving some of the pressure in that area. The report notes that “with attendance numbers unknown, the impact of this event was hard to predict, and a contingency plan needed to be prepared.”

Notably, Kingstonist inquired with Kingston Police as to whether they were aware of such events planned for St. Patrick’s Day the same day the report states police learned of the events. While police told Kingstonist they would look into it, no follow-up was received. Additionally, Kingstonist has already reported the attendance numbers for the “alternative St. Patrick’s Day events,” which were hosted largely by Tourism Kingston. Those attendance numbers were given to Kingstonist by Tourism Kingston in the week following St. Patrick’s Day.

On March 7, 2024, Canadian Party Life posted its polling results, which gave police information about the student body’s plans for St. Patrick’s Day, the report continues. The posts appeared to indicate that students at Queen’s and other Ontario universities planned on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, March 16.

Further, it appeared that Saturday’s celebrations would include the ‘Ginger Run,’ a run and celebration for redheads, which drew a large crowd to Aberdeen Street in 2023. The report notes that in 2023, the street was taken over by students and took 40 minutes to clear. Intelligence gathered through CPL posts suggested that Kingston Police would be required to manage similar issues again this year.

However, the report explains that on March 15, Canadian Party Life posts declared Saturday, March 16 the primary party day and Sunday, March 17 the Ginger Run day — a change from the original reports.

“In our quest to provide effective and adequate policing for the event and to maintain public safety, our mission and operational objectives remained the same as previous years,” the report explains. “Using an integrated response, the Kingston Police, along with policing and City partners, will keep the peace, enforce legislation and maintain public safety for the duration of the 2024 Queen’s St. Patrick’s Day Event with the utmost respect to the individuals Charter of Rights and Freedoms with priority on community and emergency services personnel safety and wellbeing.”

The report states six main objectives of operation:

  • Protect the lives and property of our citizens
  • Protect citizens’ right to lawful assembly
  • Prevent a breach of the peace
  • Perform tasks using reasonable force
  • Ensure public safety with professionalism
  • Enforce all levels of law
The report notes that the above images provide evidence of the planning and organization that occurs on
the part of the student body prior to an event such as St. Patrick’s Day. Image from report.

Strategies

Messaging was broadcast via social media before and continuously during the St. Patrick’s Day events, supporting the mission statement to discourage illegal behaviour and unsanctioned gatherings and educate people on the negative impact these have on the Kingston community.

The Police Liaison Team’s (PLT) outreach focused on proactive relationship-building as a means to assist in resolving issues and educating the student population. From about the first week of March through the two days of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, PLT members worked to establish and maintain open and transparent lines of communication with all stakeholders who might be affected, directly or indirectly, by this event.

The enforcement strategy was to conduct early and continuous alcohol deterrence and “firm enforcement of municipal, provincial and federal statutes by police and City partners, related to noise, fire safety, Liquor Licence and Control Act, Trespass to Property Act and criminal offences.” The report says this involved using discretion when encountering liquor and other offences and laying charges where applicable. A dedicated enforcement team was deployed for this reason.

On both days, the operation was carried out under the Incident Command model. The report explains that a significant number of Kingston Police sworn and civilian personnel were deployed, supported by members of Gananoque, Brockville, and Smith’s Falls police services and a full 52-member Public Order Unit (POU) from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

In the days before the events and on the weekend, the OPP liaison team was active, along with members of the Kingston Police Community Oriented Response and Engagement (CORE) Unit.

In addition to the OPP liaison team and Public Order Unit contingents, including Kingston Police Command staff and neighbouring services, the report notes that a total of 98 sworn members, eight special constables, and 18 civilian staff were deployed during the day and evening of Saturday, Mar. 16, 2024.

Saturday, March 16

The report states that Saturday, which the online poll had declared to be the main party day, was much less chaotic compared to last year. Officers noted a much better-behaved crowd, which, by all accounts, was respectful, appeared more informed of consequences and behavioural expectations, and exhibited a noticeable reduction in open liquor offences.

“As expected, an increase in the pedestrian traffic in the University District did begin to grow in numbers just before noon. Officers continued their efforts to keep crowds moving and [prevent people from] congregating in large numbers, but by about 1:50 p.m., the crowd had swelled and a nuisance party was declared on Aberdeen Street,” notes the report. This is when “a measured and cautious police response was implemented by the Incident Commander which involved members from Kingston Police, including [the Police Liaison Team] and the OPP [Public Order Unit] methodically dispersing the crowd with charges being laid as appropriate.”

A nuisance party declaration was made to deal with large numbers who had gathered in the backyards along Aberdeen Street, but they were dispersed without any issues, and by 3:15 p.m. the nuisance party declaration could be lifted. 

During the remainder of Saturday afternoon and evening, the report notes that police foot and mobile patrols continued dealing with pedestrian movement and various house parties. The Public Order Unit was released at about 7:15 p.m, and the Incident Command operation was deactivated at 10:30 p.m. An extra contingent of five officers with a supervisor remained on duty to assist patrol with anticipated call volume in the University District. The evening and night shift was “a little busier than normal, but no major issues ensued.”

Sunday, March 17

Like Saturday, the report states that, in addition to the OPP liaison and Public Order Unit contingents and including Kingston Police Command Staff and neighbouring services, 91 sworn members, eight special constables, and 21 civilian staff were deployed during the day and evening.

The actual St. Partick’s Day was “noticeably calm,” except for the Ginger Run at 2 p.m. The report notes that the crowd was smaller than last year: “Students converged on Aberdeen and lined the street in the area from Earl St. to William St., creating a pathway for the run. The run participants did their sprint, and very soon after, without any major police response, dispersed and left the area.”

Otherwise, the University District remained relatively quiet, as did the concert in Springer Market Square, the report states. By approximately 3:15 p.m., Incident Command had been deactivated. A contingent of five officers with a supervisor remained to assist patrol with anticipated call volume in the University District at night.

Costs

The exact cost of the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day event is not finalized, as some final invoices have yet to be received. However, with the known expenses (and estimates of what remains to be finalized), the report puts the approximate cost for the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day mass gathering deployment at $175,570.

The report states that enforcement interactions with the crowd were dramatically reduced this year. Image from the report.

Conclusions

The report says enforcement interactions with the crowd were dramatically reduced this year compared to 2023.

In 2023, there were 367 Liquor Licence and Control Act charges, five Highway Traffic Act charges, five Administrative Monetary Penalties, eight arrests for public intoxication, and one Criminal Code arrest.

By contrast, in 2024, over the two days, there were 100 charges laid: 98 were Liquor Licence and Control Act-related, and two were for Highway Traffic Act offences. There was only one arrest related to the event, and no Criminal Code charges were laid.

The report concludes that the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day festivities differed significantly from 2023. “Those in attendance were much better behaved than years past. There were no major incidents or injuries, and officers experienced a much more respectful and educated crowd.” This noticeable change from last year is attributed to strides made by positive outreach by the Kingston Police Liaison Team, effective messaging through social and traditional media, and the impact of a strict and consistent enforcement strategy.

The report will be discussed at the next meeting of the Kingston Police Services Board, which takes place at Kingston Police Headquarters in the William Hackett Boardroom on Thursday, Apr. 18, 2024.

Leave a Reply

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