Ezra Street party draws 22,400 attendees: 616 charges laid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The annual street party on Ezra Ave. reached a peak attendance of 22,400 people according to the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) enforcement results report, which was released on Monday.

According to report, early indications show that WRPS “responded to 248 calls for service in the St. Patrick’s Day perimeter, resulting in 619 charges.”

These numbers are a significant increase from last year’s street party, which saw around 15,000 people at peak attendance, and resulted in 208 total charges according to The Cord’s coverage.

A breakdown of the charges laid this weekend is as follows: 62 Highway Traffic Act offences, 435 Liquor Licence Act offences, 18 Criminal Code offences, 45 By-Law offences, 50 charges under the Trespass to Property Act, five charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and four charges under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act.

“Our officers responded to several very dangerous and unsafe incidents throughout the day and into the evening,” Waterloo Region Police Chief Bryan Larkin said in the report.

The increased turnout led to a more strategic approach from WRPS, who at one point opted to block off Ezra Ave. with dump trucks at Ezra and Albert as well as Ezra and King. The street was blocked off in order to protect the safety of those in attendance.

“Over the next several months we will be meeting with our community partners to discuss how we move forward in terms of shutting down this unsanctioned, unlawful and unsafe gathering.”

 This year’s gathering was met heavily with increased police presence and by-law provisions.

“It’s been a year of planning with a whole bunch of stakeholders from our perspective,” Executive Officer Insp. Mike Haffner of Waterloo Regional Police told The Cord.

This planning included collaboration with various emergency services in Waterloo, both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University and their respective student unions, as well as officers from Peel Regional Police Service. The planning aimed to “mitigate the possible risks that can come along with unsanctioned events.”

“It was to a point where it was beyond capacity for our organization and we had to reach out to Peel Regional Police Service, and we applaud and appreciate them for coming down to assist … from a crowd management perspective,” Haffner said.

The increased turnout led to a more strategic approach from WRPS, who at one point opted to block off Ezra Ave. with dump trucks at Ezra and Albert as well as Ezra and King. The street was blocked off in order to protect the safety of those in attendance.

“This is a significant drain on our resources from a police perspective,” Haffner said. “We [still] have to provide police services to the rest of the region.”

The amount of stress that the gathering puts on local resources is apparent, with the party diverting much of the city’s emergency services towards Ezra Ave.

WRPS’s report noted that paramedic crews responded to 70 patients over the weekend, with four designated ambulances being brought in “to manage increased demands.” Waterloo Fire Rescue Services responded to 40 calls during the day, 24 of which were related to medical issues.

The Record also reported that Grand River Hospital saw “52 partygoers at its emergency department,” two of which were admitted.

The increased provisions and police presence didn’t appear to deter many partygoers, a number of who appear to have come from off campus to partake in the celebration.

The lead up to St. Patty’s Day saw local authorities partner with Ontario Provincial Police officers, who intercepted numerous vehicles on their way to Waterloo.

“Even last night, we stopped a vehicle going 50 kilometers over the speed limit, all with luggage and pillows to come here and party.”

“We are aware that we have had a number of attendees coming from outside our jurisdiction, outside the City of Waterloo,” Haffner said.

“This morning we intercepted a bus from Scarborough, a vehicle from Guelph — all with open liquor, a lot of drugs — all coming to the St. Patrick’s Day party, which is something we want to avoid,” Haffner said.

“Even last night, we stopped a vehicle going 50 kilometers over the speed limit, all with luggage and pillows to come here and party,” he added.

Haffner said that the police want people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to have a good time, but they also want them to be mindful of their surroundings, their actions and the consequences they may bring.

“We want people to have fun; at no point, from a police perspective, was this an adversarial event,” Haffner said.

“We understand people want to have fun, but they need to be respectful and, more importantly, they need to be aware of the infractions that come with that.”

Ultimately, Haffner recommended that those seeking a good time should look more towards licensed establishments or private residences, as opposed to convening on Ezra Ave.

“We want people to take the proper action to go to a licensed establishment [or] have a private party in your private residence,” Haffner said.

“But more importantly be smart, stay safe, be respectful to those in attendance and to yourself.”

Leave a Reply