London

Exasperated by massive street party, police chief calls for more help from Western

London's police chief says officials at Western University need to find new ways to deter illegal student street parties after Saturday's bash on Broughdale Avenue again created a dangerous situation that cost the city an extra $100,000 to police.

FOCO party on Broughdale Avenue swelled to 20,000 students, cost $100K to police

A sea of purple engulfs Broughdale Avenue, a street full of mostly student rental homes near the eastern gates of the Western University that is now ground zero for so-called fake Homecoming celebrations. (Ross Howey/Twitter)

London's police chief says officials at Western University need to find new ways to deter illegal student street parties after Saturday's bash on Broughdale Avenue again created a dangerous situation that cost the city an extra $100,000 to police. 

It's the second straight year Chief John Pare has raised the warning about the so-called FOCO (that's fake homecoming) party that at its height on Saturday afternoon jammed the dead-end residential street in Old North with 20,000 students, 9,000 more than last year's crowd. 

In a news conference Tuesday Pare, along with representatives of London's fire department and Middlesex-London paramedics presented a united front, saying the street party has grown too big for emergency services to safety handle. 

"We cannot rely on a police-centric approach, nor can we rely heavily on enforcement as the mechanism to control behaviour," Pare said. 

Jennifer Massey, Western University's associate vice president of student experience, said in a statement Tuesday that university officials are "extremely disappointed" in the actions of those who attended the street party.

"The behaviours of those on Broughdale are incongruent with our values as a University and do not reflect school spirit. Our administration knows how terribly this situation reflects on the University and our students.

"We are committed to changing the culture that leads to this unsanctioned street party. We know from other universities this can take several years to achieve," she said in the statement.

Massey said that university officials will be meeting with student leaders, police and other community partners to discuss strategies "to resolve the Broughdale problem."

By the numbers

During the news conference, police played aerial footage showing Broughdale crammed with students standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the height of the party.

Although more than 130 tickets and 3,000 warnings were issued, mostly for liquor offences, Pare said police enforcement is failing as a deterrent as FOCO grows more popular. 

"We hand out a ticket, [students] seem to pay the ticket, the money doesn't seem to be an issue for them," he said. "They spend a lot of money to go to university ... maybe some sanctions around that might deter the behaviour and I encourage Western to look at their student Code of Conduct to see what sanctions they can apply to deter this behaviour." 

Western's student code of conduct allows the university to sanction students for certain behaviour, including breaking the law.

Between Saturday and Sunday Paramedics transported 52 people to hospital from FOCO-related parties. For the second straight year, a young man suffered serious injuries after either falling or jumping from a roof. 

Both the head of Middlesex-London Paramedic Service and Jack Burt of London fire said the situation on Broughdale put a dangerous strain on resources. 

FOCO becoming more popular

FOCO, or fake homecoming, began two years ago, when the university moved its official annual homecoming celebrations from late September to mid-October with the aim of putting a damper on unsanctioned, illegal street parties. The thinking was that fewer students would be willing to stage an outdoor party in October when the weather is cooler and students are busier with class assignments and exams.

Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire says he believes students have instead turned FOCO into an expression of defiance at university attempts to curtail what students increasingly see as their party. 

FOCO now draws thousands, including many non-Western students and partiers from outside London.. 

And while students enjoy the party, FOCO creates a situation that police and other emergency services say is a threat to public safety because at the party's height, Broughdale becomes so crammed it becomes almost impossible to get a fire truck or ambulance down the street. 

Coun. Phil Squire, whose ward includes the Old North neighbourhood where the Broughdale party occurs, has suggested it might be time to shift official homecoming back to late September. 

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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