Drink safety a concern

(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

A recent drink-tampering incident at a local nightclub has police reminding students and club employees to be cautious and attentive to the potential dangers of drinking.

“What you have is basically a person was observed with their hand over a drink in a local night club and when the patron returned and looked at the drink, they saw something in the drink,” said Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) inspector Kevin Thaler.

A 20-year-old Waterloo man was charged in the Sept. 14 incident with administering a noxious substance to a drink.

An investigation has been launched to determine whether previous incidences are linked, including one that happened the week prior, in which a woman was taken to hospital “nearly unconscious,” said Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) inspector Kevin Thaler. Toxicology reports have not yet been returned, but the police will continue to look into whether there may be a connection between the occurrences.

“We have had incidences in the past when we suspected this sort of thing was occurring,” Thaler confirmed.

The WRPS has since been involved in speaking to night clubs to create awareness of the issue and provide information about what employees can look for.

“Our core team has basically been going club to club …. It’s a partnership,” Thaler said.

Thaler said that some venues do make a point of educating their staff to be prepared for these types of incidences.

Jeyas Balaskanthan, the director of hospitality services at Wilfrid Laurier University, said that as soon as the memorandum was received by the Turret and Wilfs, it was posted for staff to see.

For him, the key is having sufficient staff and security presence to oversee the venues, particularly on busier nights. On Saturdays, the Turret has additional supervision from either Waterloo Regional Police  or Special Constables, along with having multiple managerial staff monitoring the floor.

Ensuring that there is sufficient lighting to observe club patrons is also important.

“We try to take pride in providing the most-safe atmosphere for students,” he said. “We’ve never had an issue.”

While bars and nightclub staff must be attentive to their surroundings and the security of patrons, those consuming the drinks also need to consider their responsibility in maintaining personal safety.

“It could easily happen to anyone,” considered Cristina Almudevar, a third-year English student at Wilfrid Laurier. “It’s always a concern.”

Almudevar claimed to know someone who had been a victim of drink tampering.

“Self-awareness and vigilance on your own is one of the biggest things,” said Balaskanthan. He advised pairing up as a means of self-protection.

Ensuring that there is always a member of the group who has a high degree of awareness is also important, added Thaler.

“It’s a matter of consumption, but in moderation. Don’t lose control of your physical surroundings,” he cautioned. “They don’t need to spike your drink if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and know where you are.”

Said third-year communications major Shaida Khosrowshahian, “When you’re drunk, you don’t consider it.”

The only way to be certain of avoiding drink tampering, however, is to ensure you do not leave your drink unattended.

“Never give that opportunity,” said Balaskanthan. “Don’t go out, or leave it with a friend. “

Many bars and night clubs do not allow for drinks to be brought into bathrooms, though this can also be an issue at parties as well, where people may feel more comfortable leaving their drink out in the presence of familiar people.

Thaler continued, “If you go into the washroom, leave your drink with a trusted friend, and then even when you get back, examine it. Because this stuff you can sometimes see that the drink has changed or that there’s something in it.”

He was unaware of any males reporting drink-tampering instances, but acknowledged that there may be victims, male or female, who neglected to file a report.

Police are encouraging people who suspect they may have experienced drink tampering to come forward with any information, as further information may help in finding linkages or identifying suspects.

By Lindsay Purchase and Katelyn Cullum

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