Police in Hamilton responded to multiple unsanctioned homecoming gatherings on Saturday night.
At around 5:15 p.m., police declared a nuisance party on Dalewood Avenue between Westwood and Haddon avenues. “Attendees are hereby ordered to disperse or be subject to fines under the Nuisance Party Bylaw,” police tweeted.
Later, at around 10:10 p.m., police said they were working to “disperse gatherings throughout the Westdale communities.”
Hamilton city council previously introduced a zero-tolerance bylaw to crack down on parties in the university district between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2.
Monica Ciriello, Hamilton’s director of licensing and bylaw services, said fines for a first offence “could be something from $500, all the way up to $10,000, depending on the severity of what is occurring.”
“It would apply to an individual that is hosting, sponsoring or promoting, so it wouldn’t be just the attendee,” she said.
Public drunkenness and urination, property damage, excessive noise, obstructing traffic and illegal open burning and illegal use of fireworks are among the activities used to define a nuisance party within the City of Hamilton bylaw.
On Saturday night, another nuisance party was declared on Gary Avenue between Westwood Avenue and Main Street West at around 10:30 p.m. part of Main Street West was briefly blocked between 11:10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. due to a gathering, police said.
A spokesperson for Hamilton police told Global News enforcement data, including any arrests or tickets issued, was unlikely to be available until Monday.
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“Data on the unsanctioned large gathering have yet to be collected, and will be provided to the community when available,” the spokesperson said.
In 2021, up to 5,000 people gathered in the area, according to police. Officers reported overturned vehicles and property damage, with resulting charges laid.
“Unsanctioned street gatherings are unsafe and result in unnecessary demands on all of our emergency services, including our hospitals,” Supt. Dave Hennick said.
Ward 1 coun. Maureen Wilson characterized the situation as “an improvement from last year,” but still not acceptable with multiple police and fire department units having to be deployed around events that drew thousands.
“We had … a tremendous amount of resources on site,” Wilson told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“The fact that you still had neighbors in Westdale and Ainslie Wood … not able to leave their homes for a period of at least 12 hours. I don’t think is acceptable.”
Homecoming events in Hamilton have not been sanctioned by McMaster University since 2019.
On Sunday, McMaster president David Farrar thanked police for their work.
“Most of our students took this resounding message seriously. Universities across the country are facing similar challenges, and we will continue to work collaboratively to find solutions to these parties that attract a wide range of people to Hamilton,” he said in a statement.
Wilson didn’t have any estimates on what costs may be incurred by the city amid the gatherings but said she is disappointed that McMaster University has not come to the table to contribute.
“I know that Queen’s University has finally come to the table and is helping to offset the cost of that event in the city of Kingston. I think $300,000 for over three years,” Wilson said.
“That’s $100,000 a year. Obviously, that’s not enough, but at least it’s a start.”
— With files from Don Mitchell, Ryan Rocca and Ken Mann