The Guelph Police Service released the tab for Homecoming 2021, and it comes in at 310 calls for service over a 17-hour period that will ultimately cost the City of Guelph over $30,000 in police time and resources. The price tag, and the fallout, will likely spurn a previously unfinished discussion pre-pandemic about where the financial burden of events from Homecoming will lie.
First, the police notes. In a media release on Wednesday morning, the Guelph Police Service covered some of what they encountered between 10 am on September 25 and 3 am on September 26. Guelph Police answered a new call ever three-and-a-half minutes, mostly calls for noise complaints and open liquor, but they issued a number of different fines including consuming alcohol outside private residences and licensed establishments, public urination, and being intoxicated in a public place.
Much of police concerns were directed to the hours-long unsanctioned street party on Chancellors Way, which they described as “quite difficult” to manage, especially with beer bottles being thrown at police in two different incidents. In a different incident, a large crowd gathered around a police cruiser and started yelling and banging on the hood while officers were inside. The incident was not too dissimilar from one the weekend before where the crowd tried to interfere with police taking someone into custody at a large outdoor gathering on campus.
Seven people were taken to the Guelph General Hospital for a variety of issues including “extreme intoxication” and being struck by a beer bottle, but it could have been a lot worse…
On September 26th, at 12:30am, there were approximately 1,200 people at the event when an adult male in the middle of the crowd held up a lit Roman candle tube-like firework. The firework launched in the air twice, and the male then ran with the firework, pointing the tube in the direction of a cluster of attendees, who scattered out of the way as it shot in their direction. The male was subsequently arrested.
A 19 year old Mississauga male has been charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
He will appear in court on January 14, 2022.
Please note that there were no injuries as a result of this incident.
“The University does not condone this behaviour and will not tolerate activity that puts people at risk, especially during a pandemic,” said University of Guelph president Charlotte Yates in a statement on Sunday. “We will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Guelph, students, neighbourhood associations and other community partners to find effective solutions to the serious concerns associated with unsanctioned street gatherings.”
With the attention of City of Guelph Bylaw Department, Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service and the Guelph Fire Department, the Guelph Police are pegging the cost of their time on Saturday at “well over” $30,000. Comparatively, it’s a steal compared to the $72,000 in overtime costs in 2019, which is the last time that the University of Guelph held Homecoming festivities.
That fall, members of the Guelph Police Services Board debated a response to the University of Guelph to demand that they carry more of the financial commitment to patrol off-campus parties and gatherings during events like Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day.
“We’re not really interested in the blame game, we’re really interested in what can we do to collaborate to offset the cost,” said then-board chair Don. Drone. “We’re not here to disparage anyone, but we want to say that this is a cost, it’s in a way unanticipated, and it’s something we don’t budget for every year.”
“By being a university community we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two or three years in order to support homecoming, which itself is a great event, but a lot of the citizens have been impacted in a negative way,” Drone added.
“I was disappointed, especially the large gathering that was illegal happened a mere steps from the front door of our public health unit,” Mayor Cam Guthrie told CTV News Kitchener. “We still have public health guidelines and many of the students that are here you are guests in our city, we are one of the most vaccinated cities in Canada but it doesn’t mean you flaunt the rules.”
Back at the University of Guelph, interim vice-provost (student affairs) Irene Thompson noted that the vast majority of U of G’s students were not a part of the festivities on Chancellor’s Way. “I want to thank the vast majority of our students for not taking part in this unsanctioned gathering on Saturday,” she said. “We also know that many of those in attendance were not our students, as such street gatherings attract people from all over due to their prominence on social media.”
“The Guelph Police Service would like to acknowledge that the majority of those in attendance who were respectful to each other and to first responders,” said a Guelph Police statement. “However, as we move forward, the Guelph Police Service encourages everyone in our city to act as responsible and law-abiding citizens.”
UPDATE: City of Guelph Announces an Increase in Fines
On Friday afternoon, the City of Guelph announced that as of Monday, tickets for nuisance parties and related conduct such as hosting, attending, permitting, continuing or refusing to leave a nuisance party have been raised from $500 to $750. Also, anyone that tries to interfere with the enforcement of those fines could get a $1,000 fine of their own.
According to the City, there has been an increase in the number of fines issued since the beginning of September as bylaw has responded to 293 different complaints for noise and nuisance parties.
“We requested an increase in fines for our Nuisance Party Bylaw based on what happened this past weekend and throughout September,” said Scott Green, manager of Corporate and Community Safety in a statement. “This increase shows how serious we are about protecting our neighbourhoods, residents and first responders.”