London tries to avoid repeat of St. Patrick's Day riot
Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Friday, March 15, 2013 11:49AM EDT
London police are taking a zero-tolerance approach to this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parties after last year’s festivities descended into an alcohol-fuelled riot that gained international attention.
To keep things under control, police Chief Brad Duncan said his service is deploying more officers this weekend than ever before, as they encourage people to be responsible and prepared to be handcuffed should they disobey the law.
“If you’re committing an infraction, you’re going to be charged,” Duncan told CP24 on Friday.
Officers are monitoring social media accounts for tweets or Facebook messages to try to keep tabs on parties or other gatherings, the police chief said.
“Last year, there was a great deal of movement on social media,” Duncan said.
Police are issuing the zero-tolerance message ahead of the weekend, hoping it will discourage people from overindulging on booze, driving while impaired, and getting out of control.
“I want people to wake up on Monday morning, they might have a headache, but I want them to wake up and know they didn’t get involved with us and nor are they waking up in an unfamiliar (place) such as our custody facility,” Duncan said.
People shouldn’t think of the police as party poopers, he suggested.
“We know it’s fun, we know it’s a party day but now is the time to make those arrangements for driving, and also be mindful and respectful of your neighbours,” Duncan said.
He said police will have an increased presence in neighbourhoods around Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, and Richmond Street.
More than 60 charged in 2012 riot
In last year’s riot, intoxicated revellers tossed objects at police officers and firefighters, torched a CTV News vehicle, and damaged more than 20 police vehicles as hundreds of people gathered on Fleming Drive.
More than 60 people were charged, including about two dozen Fanshawe College students.
Looking back, Duncan said, it was the “perfect storm” for a significant disturbance on the streets – St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday, the weather was warm, and hundreds of people were celebrating.
After the riot, the City of London amended its public nuisance bylaw to allow police officers to go onto private property to break up a “nuisance party” where there are problems with things such as noise, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, vandalism or fights.
This year, the weather will be a bit cooler, ranging between zero and -10 C over the weekend. Still, police are expecting large crowds in the city’s core district and traditional student neighbourhoods.
St. Patrick’s Day coincides with the final day of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, which is being held in London, so police also have plans to address traffic congestion during the crossover.
Police target impaired drivers
In the GTA, police agencies are setting up RIDE (Reduced Impaired Driving Everywhere) checkpoints to catch people who are driving while drunk or high.
Durham Regional Police Det. Const. Dave Ashfield said the weekend is like a “triple header” because people will be drinking as they take in several events, be it St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday night’s UFC card on pay-per-view, or televised hockey games, in addition to the usual bar hopping.
Those who are drinking should plan ahead and get a ride from a sober driver, call a taxicab or take public transit, police say.
“We want people to go out and enjoy themselves, but make good choices,” Ashfield said.
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