Guelph Police will be out in unprecedented numbers Saturday to make sure that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations don’t get out of hand.
In the wake of last September’s Homecoming debacle, which included an outdoor party that attracted several thousand students to Chancellor’s Way, Guelph Police will have an extra 40 to 50 extra officers on duty Saturday.
City bylaw officers will also be out in full force.
“It’s one of those days where it’s all hands on deck,” Guelph Police Chief Jeff DeRuyter said.
It’s all part of the #FirmButFair campaign launched by police.
“If you’re drinking out in the community, if you’re urinating in public, if you’re damaging property, there are consequences,” DeRuyter said.
“We’ve heard from the community. We will have way more officers out working this Saturday than we’ve ever had out before.”
He said other municipalities have seen things escalate over the years and he doesn’t want that to happen in Guelph.
“We really want to work hard at getting the right message in. When we see trending, you’ve just got to nip it in the bud when you can,” DeRuyter said. “You don’t want a reputation where ‘this is the place to go,’ because it obviously travels.
“We have no issue, we understand people are going to wear green and they’re going to drink and have fun. Just do it responsibly when you do so. Have fun, be safe, but there’s going to be consequences if you’re not going to do so,” DeRuyter said.
The vast majority of students are responsible and compliant with police and bylaw requests, the chief said, but there are also a certain amount of people, some not from Guelph, that do cause trouble.
Most significantly, police don’t want to see another situation like what happened on Chancellor’s Way at Homecoming.
“We’re prepared to deal with all situations and nothing would please me and the community more than if it was a low-key day and we were very bored,” DeRuyter said.
“This is not at all about us stopping it. We have a vibrant community and the university certainly adds life to our community. We’re fine with people enjoying the day, as long as you do it while being respectful of your neighbours, respectful of our community and being safe.”
Volunteers and officers have been going around the city’s south end distributing door hangers showing the proper contact number to call for certain issues, such as noise complaints.
There have also been a number of meetings between the police, city, university and community representatives.
The fact that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday can be a contributing factor to the scope of the celebration, DeRuyter agreed.
“You have less people at work or at school,” he said.
Weather can also be a big factor, with warmer weather resulting in more outdoor activity and lingering crowds downtown.
Saturday’s forecast is calling for partially cloudy skies and a high of 6 C and a low of minus-3 C.