December 11, 2018

By Jeff Halcrow, Spoke News

In what has become an increasingly troubling tradition, Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) closed Ezra Avenue during homecoming celebrations Saturday at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The WRPS report, released Oct. 1, estimates peak attendance at 14,000, a startling increase from last year’s estimated attendance of 10,000. As the scale of unsanctioned events during homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations continue to increase, the Region of Waterloo will find its resources and finances under further strain.

These estimates often do not include people inside residences or backyards or the surrounding streets. Earlier this year, WRPS estimated that 22,000 people attended St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on Ezra Avenue.

The view from Clayfield Street looking at Ezra Avenue during Laurier homecoming celebrations on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018.
Photo by Jeff Halcrow, Spoke News

According to the report, WRPS says they had laid 462 charges at the time of publishing, as well as 12 arrests.

The charges included:

  • 71 highway traffic act charges.
  • 304 liquor license act charges.
  • three Criminal Code charges.
  • 18 bylaw offences.
  • 53 trespassing charges.
  • three controlled substances act charges.

The report also states that WLU’s Special Constable Service had 566 calls and issued 114 provincial offence notices related to the homecoming events. In addition, the City of Waterloo bylaw enforcement services responded to 62 calls resulting in 40 charges for a variety of offences, including public urination, noise complaints and traffic violations.

WRPS had closed Ezra Avenue from approximately 1:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, though the stress on regional emergency services didn’t end there.

WRPS had blocked off Ezra Avenue at King Street and Albert Street from 1:20 p.m. to 7 p.m., using police vans and city trucks.
Photo by Jeff Halcrow, Spoke News

Region of Waterloo paramedic services (PSV) and fire rescue (WFR) services also responded to calls related to the event on Ezra Avenue. PSV reported responding to 70 calls from 10 a.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday, with WFR responding to 35 homecoming related calls. According to PSV, 40 patients were transported to hospital from these calls.

Two local hospitals, Grand River and St. Mary’s also reported 40 visits related to homecoming from paramedics, with an additional 12 patients admitting themselves to hospital. Of the 52 admitted, 12 patients were listed to be in serious or critical condition, all related to alcohol or other substance abuse.

Obviously, the costs of all of these additional services and staff strain the region’s resources — and the costs are growing.

The cost differs depending on who you ask, with the CBC first reporting the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day street party cost the WRPS an estimated $120,000. In 2018, this amount increased drastically when later compounded with the cost of other emergency services, raising the total to a whopping $713,500.

In the statement from WRPS, PSV, WLU and the University of Waterloo, the associated costs were as follows:

  • $330,000 for policing.
  • $62,500 for the City of Waterloo.
  • $120,000 for regional paramedic services.
  • $191,000 for Wilfrid Laurier University.
  • $10,000 for the University of Waterloo.
Laurier students and other attendees exit the Homecoming football game. The Laurier Golden Hawks fell to the Guelph Gryphons 24-27.
Photo by Jeff Halcrow, Spoke News

Most students in attendance were current students of WLU or other local post-secondary institutions.

In a document presented to a joint task force between city officials and WRPS, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky said “these costs simply aren’t sustainable. This is money that could be better used to meet other community needs.”

While the region doesn’t foot the entirety of the bill, the stress these unsanctioned events presents financially and on local emergency services will require a stricter response as crowds continue to grow.

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