Queen’s and the City unite to bring an end to Aberdeen
Queen’s University and the City of Kingston are continuing to work in partnership on a multi-year plan aimed at bringing an end to the fall Aberdeen street event while at the same time making safety during the Sept. 27 Homecoming weekend a top priority.
The Aberdeen Working Group, established in January in response to a motion by Kingston City Council, is composed of representatives of the City of Kingston, Kingston Police, Queen’s administration and students. It operates under the leadership of the City’s interim Chief Administrative Officer Gerard Hunt and Queen’s Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane.
Since early May, the partnership group has been working on an Aberdeen plan, which will be presented to City Council at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 17.
“We wanted to be in a position as early as possible to come before City Council to share our plans and gain council’s support,” says Vice Principal Patrick Deane. “The collaboration between the city, the university, the AMS, the community and the police in exploring realistic solutions and planning for both the short-term and the long-term has been extremely productive. We look forward to the opportunity of getting feedback from council”.
“Public safety has been and will continue to be our primary concern,” says Gerard Hunt, interim Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Kingston. “We are working together to find long-term practical solutions that will ensure the safety of residents, students, volunteers, and law enforcement as we work towards the goal of eliminating this unsanctioned event.”
The Aberdeen Working Group agrees that the approach taken by the City/Queen’s/AMS partnership should be continued, given the tangible evidence over the past three years of a de-escalation of the event.
Last year, the number attending on Aberdeen dropped by about 2,000, according to police estimates. There has also been no repeat of the overt violence seen in 2005.
“Another measure of success as I see it,” says Acting Deputy Police Chief Brian Cookman, “is the general acknowledgment that we need an acceptable remedy and no one stakeholder has the miracle answer. We are now working together on this as a community initiative as is required.”
In keeping with the partnership group’s recommended approach for this fall, the Aberdeen Working group will be requesting from the City an Aberdeen street closure for Saturday, Sept. 27. Kingston Police favour a street closure primarily because it provides a safer environment but it also facilitates crowd management.
Some other key components of the plan include recruitment of Red Hat community volunteers to inject a calming influence on the street, continuation of the formal agreement for sharing information between the Kingston Police and Queen’s to maximize successful prosecutions of offenders both of the law and of the Student Code of Conduct; an initiative to increase interaction between alumni and students during Homecoming weekend, the development of a wide range of programs of interest to students, alumni and the local community; awareness building amongst new students at Orientation about their roles and responsibilities as well as the repercussions of breaching the code of conduct; visits to potentially disruptive student homes by Queen’s Security, the Office of Student Affairs, the AMS and faculty Deans where appropriate to address issues of public safety and good citizenship; and outreach to high schools, other universities and colleges requesting that they assist in deterring participation on Aberdeen St.
More long-term strategies include building stronger University-landlord relationships as a means of addressing property safety issues; inspection blitzes by City Property Standards office and AMS Student Property Assessment team; seminars to educate students and landlords about their respective responsibilities; an improved move-out campaign to control debris and issue fines; the introduction of a year-round, overnight noise patrol by-law in the student residential areas over the weekends coordinated by City By-law Enforcement, Queen’s Security and the Kingston Police; property standards inspection with respect to balconies, streetscape.
The AMS is also developing its own plan for coordinating student government initiatives aimed at maximizing safety.
After considerable deliberations and community consultations, working group members agreed that changing the timing of Homecoming to other than the fall would be an unwise and ineffective course of action. Kingston Police say that there is great advantage to knowing in advance when a street party is likely to occur.
“This gives all the partners the benefit of being able to plan for the event and the police the ability to be prepared to respond as necessary,” says Cookman.
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