London

Hey London students: see what Kingston is doing about bad party behaviour

London police say they’re bracing for more student street parties this weekend, just days after 500 people filled Thurman Circle near Fanshawe College, some hurling bottles at police. One struck a cruiser damaging its windshield.

A new pilot project in Kingston attempts to make students more accountable for their actions

Thousands of students swell into the street like a purple-clad sea of humanity for 'fake homecoming,' or FOCO, an unsanctioned booze-fuelled event that began as an act of protest against the university's administration. (The Social Lab/Facebook)

London police say they're bracing for more student street parties this weekend, just days after 500 people filled Thurman Circle near Fanshawe College, some hurling bottles at police. One struck a cruiser, damaging its windshield.

Fines under the city's nuisance bylaw, for incidents such as this, can run as high as $10,000.

Police in London issue many warnings to students about rowdy behaviour as they return to school every September, but the city of Kingston is going one step further.

As part of a recently announced pilot project, students at Queen's University have been told if they are fined for disruptive behaviour they must appear in court in person to explain their actions. Payment of fines by mail or other means will not be accepted.

Kingston mayor Bryan Paterson told CBC's London Morning program Friday his city has grappled with the problem of student rowydism for years. But the frustration came to a head on St. Patrick's Day this year when a roof on which 40 students were partying collapsed.  He said it was fortunate that no one was seriously injured or killed.

Kingston mayor Bryan Paterson said a new pilot program that requires people ticketed for disruptive behaviour to make a mandatory appearance in court imposes a higher level of accountability. (Submitted)

After the incident, the mayor and the principal of Queen's University, Daniel Woolf, began looking at other ways to deter disruptive behaviour.

Sending a message

Paterson said requiring individuals who receive a ticket to appear in court imposes a higher level of accountability.

"We felt that there was something about having to do that face to face that really does send a message to students that the community is concerned about it."

Paterson said the offences requiring a court appearance are the typical type of charges that police lay when large street parties get out of control – such as public intoxication or blocking the roadway – "anything  that would be excessively disruptive with noise or damage."

He said the objective is to make people accept responsibility for their actions.

It also allows Queen's University to track the appearance of students in court so it can pursue potential academic sanctions.

Paterson said city officials aren't concerned about clogging up the courts with this new approach because the requirement to appear would only be implemented three times in the year when street parties are a problem: orientation week, homecoming weekend and St. Patrick's Day.

So far, he said, police have laid about 115 charges under Kingston's new nuisance party bylaw.

"That would be 115 students coming to court, but clearly … that's not actually that unmanageable."

But, Paterson added, the pilot program could be adjusted if necessary.

He thinks the program is already having a positive effect. He said there have been several large parties during the student move-in period this year but after warnings about the new policy were issued, there were no further problems.

Western is watching

It's still "early days" for the pilot project but Paterson is encouraged by what he has seen. He said the requirement to appear in court "could be a useful tool for us."

Western University says it will be closely watching  the Kingston experiment to see whether it has an impact.

In a statement, Western said it's also sharing information with other Canadian universities about educating students on the importance of being good neighbours.