Paddy’s Day partying deemed ‘pretty safe’

(Photo by Kha Vo)
(Photo by Kha Vo)

In spite of high anticipation from the city, the universities and law enforcement for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, the day of partying passed without any major incidences.

This year’s Ezra Avenue crowd was estimated by police at 4,000 people, down from last year’s 7,000 partiers.

In the past, major arrests, vandalism and violence have been a major concern for the city.

“This year, we took considerable effort to plan a proactive approach,” said Alana Holtom, corporate communications coordinator for the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS).

“We focused a lot more on communications, doing a door-knock campaign last week to spread the message of safety to residents in the university area.”

“Overall, it was a pretty safe St. Patrick’s Day,” added Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union president Annie Constantinescu. “Thanks to the planning of universities, student unions, police and emergency services everything went pretty well.”

In advance of the day, police also confiscated $5,500 worth of beer from a student residence, which was storing the alcohol for the Water Buffaloes’ bi-annual party. Tickets are sold to the ‘Cold Shot’ event and some proceeds go to charity.

Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS), Waterloo Fire Rescue, City of Waterloo Bylaw and the local universities came together in September to find ways to disperse the quantities of students.

Their solution was to introduce a tent party, a brand new event, which aimed to take people away from crowds on Ezra Avenue.

“The tent capacity was 3,000 people and it was pretty full,” said Holtom. “So that was 3,000 people moved from Ezra to a safe location.”

“The tent event has been good, because it depends on folks who’ve already purchased tickets, and the area is easy to keep controlled,” said Mike Allard, a staff sergeant for WRPS. “No tickets have been handed out at the tent event, but people who were causing trouble were asked to leave the property.”

Although the police saw no major issues, minor arrests still occurred.

In total, there were 100 police patrolling the university area. Six arrests were made, as well as two evacuations of houses due to owners wanting partiers to leave. Vandalism was also a recurring issue.

“We had 24 incidences of vandalism, which is disappointing for the property owners in the area,” said Holtom. “That’s really the whole idea of getting people off of Ezra to the tent location.”

Final numbers, as far as police ticketing go, will not be known until Apr. 2, when the WRPS Deputy Chief presents a report to the Waterloo Police Services Board.

However, it was confirmed that the most common fine handed out on St. Patrick’s Day was the $125 ticket for possession of open alcohol in public.

Students also seemed pleased with this year’s St. Patrick’s Day atmosphere.

“I guess I was unsure about Ezra, but when I got there it was just a lot of drunken people standing around,” said Wilfrid Laurier University student, Thilakxsan Thurairajah. “Overall it was pretty safe, a lot of police officers doing their job, but no fights, nothing violent.”

“We’re thankful to have a responsible university population,” said Holtom.

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