Police and bylaw officers are once again expecting a huge crowd in Kingston’s University District this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day 2023 events.
City of Kingston Licensing and Enforcement Manager Kyle Compeau said, based on what’s been seen on social media, the bigger party is expected to be on Saturday, but that bylaw and Kingston Police will still be “bolstering up enforcement complements” today, Friday, Mar. 17, 2023, as well.
In the meantime, bylaw officers have reportedly been working alongside officials from Queen’s University to engage students and encourage them to be respectful in their celebration, or risk some relatively significant fines.
Students can receive Administrative Monetary Penalties of $100 for yelling or shouting, $200 for amplification of sound, and $2,000 for hosting what’s considered to be a ‘nuisance party.’
Compeau said this year however, bylaw is trying to listen a bit more to students on things that officers can do to build a better relationship with the student body.
“I think the bigger approach this year is to ask for feedback in the ways that we can improve,” Compeau said.
“Compared to last year when we were sort of just giving the bullet points in terms of this is the bylaw… now we’re trying to really again work on that relationship between how students feel with enforcement between Kingston Police and bylaw.”
Compeau said the massive police presence has been pointed to by some students as a concern.
While it’s unclear how much the sheer number present in Kingston’s downtown really deters the behaviour, Compeau said the measures are about keeping people safe and avoiding overloading Kingston hospitals.
“Our emergency services are very tied up still,” Compeau said.
“We have very limited resources for paramedics and hospital services right now… stay safe because our hospitals are still backed up.”
Kingston Police said that no one from Senior Command could be made available for an interview, and that details of the operational plan won’t be shared as per best practice but a detailed report regarding the event, including the associated costs, will be presented at a Police Services Board meeting in the weeks following St. Patrick’s Day.
Kingston Police ran a $1.29 million deficit in 2022, and blamed some of that on overtime associated with unsanctioned street parties including $83,000 that was not budgeted for.
Last year during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Kingston Police handed out 41 open liquor charges, 3 public intoxication charges, and 7 underage drinking charges, along with handing out thousands in Administrative Monetary Penalties.
In a release from Queen’s University, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Teri Shearer said that the problematic behaviour is from a smaller subsect of students attending these celebrations.
“We know most students behave responsibly and are mindful of others, but there are always some individuals who do not seem to get the message,” said Shearer.
“Actions such as climbing on roofs, breaking glass, or disrespecting area residents are unacceptable. Additionally, large groups of people gathering in the University District have the potential to interfere with traffic and the provision of emergency services and can unintentionally put people in harm’s way.”
The school has begun to implement whatever of the 14 recommendations identified by the Street Party Task Force they can immediately, including launching a social media campaign that Shearer says focuses on building a sense of community and responsibility within the broader Kingston community.
Some of those things identified will be present this weekend, but Shearer said others are bigger cultural shifts that can’t only be handled by the university.
“They speak to things like changing cultural norms around drinking,” Shearer said.
“Those are of course larger than just the university and also sort of longer term cultural shifts that you can’t implement immediately.”
Those recommendations come from a report on best practices that the Task Force was set to have completed by September 2022.
Now, just days away from the second set of large, unsanctioned event in the University District since the start of the school year — and that report is still nowhere to be seen.
Shearer said she can’t provide an update on where the report is, as the task force continues its “broader search of the post secondary landscape,” but assured that it is still coming. She said the things that have already been discovered through the process however are being implemented right away.
“Eventually it will all be pulled together into a report,” Shearer said.
“We’re not waiting to implement recommendations but rather implementing them as we receive them as we can.”
Community partners like those in bylaw aren’t sure where that report stands either, and though Compeau declined to comment on whether Queen’s is doing their part when it comes to these parties, he did say any report would certainly be helpful.
Bylaw and the Kingston community will have to wait until at least homecoming to make use of that report.
Owen Fullerton is a reporter based in Kingston with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).