Waterloo’s top cop says police have plan in place for St. Patrick’s Day

Ezra Avenue has been closed due to the massive St. Patrick's Day crowd in Waterloo. Waterloo Regional Police

We are less than two weeks away from St. Patrick’s Day. Prior to the pandemic, that meant a gathering of thousands of bodies on Ezra Avenue in Waterloo, Ont.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a couple of years since police have had to deal with a major gathering on March 17, but this year could be different, according to Waterloo Regional Police chief Bryan Larkin.

Read more: 2019: Ezra Avenue St. Patrick’s Day crowd peaked at 33,000 people, police say

“I think we can all recognize that after two years of celebrating virtually and celebrating in our homes, that many individuals – with the reopening of pubs and bars and the other institutions – that we likely will see people celebrating,” he told the Waterloo Police Services Board on Wednesday.

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In 2019, police estimated that 33,000 people gathered on Ezra Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, which led to 80 calls for paramedics while a similar amount of people visited emergency rooms at the two hospitals in Kitchener.

In addition, police arrested 18 people and issued more than 500 tickets to those in the crowd.

The chief says Supt. Tom Berczi has been working with the city and universities, as well as paramedics, bylaw and fire departments, on a plan for St. Patrick’s Day.

“We have a significant operational plan in place to ensure the safety of all citizens across the region for St. Patrick’s Day,” he said.

Read more: 2,500 students gathered in Waterloo’s University District Friday night, police say

Larkin credited student leaders with keeping the celebrations to a minimum over the past two years although there were some issues at the beginning of the school year last fall.

“I do want to take a moment to recognize over the last two years that our students and our student unions have been exemplary citizens,” he said. “They have heeded our call to celebrate responsibly in a global pandemic.”

The chief noted that while the government has lifted some of the COVID-19 restrictions, it does not mean that the virus has disappeared.

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“People are still contracting COVID-19. And so we will hopefully once again recognize that everybody will celebrate responsibly, appropriately,” Larkin said.

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