Homecoming (HoCo) is on the horizon for Western University students, and as the countdown continues, local officials are preparing for an eventful weekend along Richmond Row.
Many on-campus events are planned for Western students and returning alumni, including the Western Mustangs vs. Ottawa Gee-Gees football game on Saturday.
Yet when it comes to unauthorized weekend parties, the university advises students and other attendees to congregate in off-campus neighborhoods. At the same time, city officials warn that unauthorized gatherings that get out of control could have consequences.
Last year, nearly 7,000 people were on Broughdale Avenue and surrounding streets at the height of Saturday’s unauthorized event, leading to the closure of several roads, including Richmond Street, at times, according to first responders .
John Doerksen, Western’s vice provost (students), said homecoming “is a time of celebration.”
“We simply ask that all students respect our community values at Western,” he said. We recognize that the safety and well-being of our community is a shared responsibility and we encourage students to be respectful, caring for themselves, others and this community.
In a statement on Wednesday, the City of London said its unauthorized street party task force would prioritize safety this weekend.
“For several years, the end of September has been synonymous with major celebrations in London,” the press release said. “This task force brings together agencies from across London sharing concern for the safety of those who attend and participate in large unauthorized gatherings and sharing responsibility for the safety of the wider community.”
The working group includes representatives from Western University, Fanshawe College, the City of London, the London Police Service, the London Fire Department, the Middles*x-London Paramedic Service and the Health Department from Middles*x-London.
It also includes operational support from London Health Sciences Center and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
Nash Syed, president of London Children’s Hospital, told PKBNEWS that preparations are already underway.
“We have staff available to handle higher volumes [and] we are creating other research spaces because our emergency departments are already full. So when you have additional volumes, we need additional spaces,” he said.
Syed added that in recent years the hospital has seen a notable increase in hospital visits due to unauthorized parties, but this is a “cumulative effect.”
“This is not an isolated incident [or] any situation, but when it happens, especially on a Saturday at 1 a.m., it just puts a little more strain on the system,” he said. “We want everyone to be happy and take time to celebrate because I think we all need that, but be careful.”
City officials also stressed that “unauthorized gatherings in large numbers on city streets are not only dangerous, they can also be costly.”
According to the City of London, possible fines are:
- attend a harmful party: $800
- failure to leave the premises: $750
- take a closed road: $500
- urinating in a public place: $250
“Students are an important part of our community,” said Mayor Josh Morgan. “As a member of our community, everyone has a responsibility to take good care of themselves, others and our city.
“I know you’re excited to be here and want to be social and celebrate, and we just ask that you do it safely and respectfully,” he added.
The London Police Service’s report on its internal task forces, released earlier this year, estimates the cost of policing the 2022 HoCo event to be just over $265,000.
Last year’s price tag represents an increase of $9,057 from 2021’s so-called “false homecoming” (FoCo), which cost taxpayers $256,098.
In fashion now
London police issued more than 200 charges during a two-day event last September, including 22 charges under the Liquor License Control Act and 34 administrative monetary penalties, such as fines for noise violations and violations of street and yard maintenance regulations.
Sam Trosow, local councilor for Ward 6, said that every year “people don’t know what’s going to happen”, adding that “some larger issues are not being addressed”.
“There are a lot of ongoing problems with trash, noise and annoying street parties,” he said. “But I think the situation in this region is part of a larger structural problem, not just something that happens every year with the return home.”
“I think the university and the city need to take responsibility and start thinking about a broader, long-term solution that really addresses the quality and nature of housing near campus,” he said. he adds.
In light of the upcoming event, Trosow hopes that “the police and the crowd will be a good part” in reducing the number of serious incidents in nearby neighborhoods.
“A victory would be achieved if there was no serious property damage and no one was injured,” he said.
In an email to PKBNEWS, Const. Matthew Dawson said: “The London Police Service will maintain a highly visible presence across the city to ensure everyone can have a safe and enjoyable time. »
“Public safety is our priority and we have plans in place to monitor and manage any large gatherings that may occur,” he said.
Although the official number of officers who will be deployed has not been provided, Dawson added that in anticipation of large crowds, officers from the Hamilton, York and Windsor police services will also be present over the weekend. reunion.
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of the community, reunion participants and our officers,” he said.
– with files from PKBNEWS’ Devon Peac**k and Mike Stubbs.