Mass crowds at Ezra put toll on WRPS

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Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

Earlier this month in a police board meeting, Waterloo Regional Police Services Chief Bryan Larkin commented on big student street parties, as well as the toll they have on the police force.

His comments came in the wake of Wilfrid Laurier University’s most recent homecoming celebrations.

While the three-day event’s programming was oriented toward bringing together alumni, more than 12,000 people gathered on streets off-campus to party.

Ezra Street, in particular, was packed. A mass of participants decked out in Laurier’s school colours of purple and gold filled the stretch of road in a manner not dissimilar from St. Patrick’s Day’s celebrations. Laurier students’ celebration of the latter made national headlines this past March.

According to The Record, Larkin noted that the weekend resulted in 150 provincial charges.

Some of the issues Larkin voiced at the recent board meeting, according to The Record, include the culture of binge drinking among students, the greater occurrence of preventable injuries and public safety issues connected to the presence of large gatherings of people in relatively small places like Ezra Street.

“The taking of Ezra has become a right and quite frankly it has to stop,” Bryan Larkin said, according to The Record.

Larkin also stressed the toll that ensuring public safety and managing these large gatherings has on first responders, according to The Record, who also reported that the recent homecoming weekend generated around 350 hours of police overtime.

Larkin has voiced similar concerns elsewhere.

At an Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Kingston prior to this year’s homecoming, Larkin made several comments about the policing efforts around large events like homecoming, as well as about the role that local institutions play in promoting safety.

According to The Whig, Queen’s University gives the Kingston Police 100,000 dollars annually to assist with the costs associated with extra policing.

Per The Whig’s report, Larkin expressed interest in the model.

“It doesn’t happen in our area, but we often use the Kingston Police Service and Queen’s University as models to follow. It’s on my radar,” Larkin said, according to The Whig.

With respect to means of toning down big student street parties around Laurier, Larkin was short on specifics; however, according to The Record, Larkin said there would a full report released on the matter in November.

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