Unsanctioned Western University homecoming cost London taxpayers $55K, police say

The cost of policing an unsanctioned Western University homecoming party ballooned to $55,000, say police, who are investigating how to hold the organizers of the massive street bash accountable.

The tab for taxpayers — up from an earlier estimate of $36,000 — was revealed at Thursday’s police services board meeting, where members agreed the unofficial event can’t continue - writes lfpress.com.

“This, as you know, is a significant drain on our financial resources and it’s not sustainable,” Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth told the five-member board. “There’s no question that the university ... is a very important contributor to the community, but something needs to be done to stop these events ... in the future.”

About 11,000 young people packed Broughdale Avenue and nearby streets, near the school’s campus, Sept.30 for the student-organized act of defiance against Western’s move to push back homecoming until this weekend, when the weather is cooler and mid-term exams are underway.

Dozens of police officers worked overtime shifts to control last month’s gathering, where officers arrested 11 people, laid dozens of charges and dished out 964 warnings.

Paramedics, who struggled to get through the crush of revellers, took 37 people to hospital, including one who fell from a roof and was left with a head and spine injury.

Mayor Matt Brown, a police board member, called for action before the unsanctioned party takes a tragic turn.

“The fact that this continues to happen in our community is unacceptable,” Brown said, acknowledging the fall gathering has become a community issue, not just a police problem.

Chief John Pare didn’t mince words when Brown asked him what needs to be done to end to the event.

“I do think we need the university and students themselves to step up and take ownership and recognize that they have a place in this community, but they have to be respectful and responsible in how they choose to socialize and engage in these types of large-scale social events,” he said.

Last year, Western officials announced homecoming weekend would move from the last weekend in September to late October going forward.

Police reached out to the University Students’ Council before this year’s event, but Longworth said the relationship with the group isn’t as strong as in past years.

The party on Broughdale, a dead-end street with a history of large gatherings, was promoted via Facebook groups, including one that drew more than 5,000 supporters.

“This was very much social media-driven,” Longworth said of the party. “In fact, we have an ongoing investigation into who was responsible for organizing the event and how can they be held accountable.”

Theo Debono, one of the party’s promoters, didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday. The third-year King’s University College student, whose father is a Free Press reporter, had encouraged people to attend the Sept.30 event.

In the fallout of the mass gathering, university officials had said students could face possible discipline under the student code of conduct.

Western’s official homecoming begins Friday. An estimated 15,000 alumni will flock to London for more than 50 weekend events, executive director of alumni relations Trista Walker said.

“Many alumni actually think of this as their homecoming time,” Walker said.

Homecoming is about welcoming alumni back to campus, she said, noting the event wasn’t traditionally held in September.

“We want them to know that this campus is always their home,” Walker said of the school’s more than 280,000 alumni worldwide.

A tailgate party is planned Saturday before the Western University football Mustangs host the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees at TD Stadium at 1p.m.

The university plans to give away 700 Western-purple toques at the game.

Unofficial bash by the numbers

964: Provincial Offence Act warnings (most for liquor and trespassing offences)

50: Provincial Offence Act tickets (most related to liquor and trespassing offences)

11: Arrests

2: Criminal charges

1: Drug charge

$55,000: Cost to police event

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