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News 2003

posted December 1, 2003

Mary and Joe and the baby

Toronto Police Service
Bicycle Patrol

November 2003. Mary (not her real name) is a young woman of 17 who had a baby with her "babyfather" Joe, four months ago. The new mother, father and their baby come to the park a lot with their friends. Many of this group of young people are from the Caribbean. Mary and Joe (not his real name) could be the poster parents for good parenting, teenage or otherwise. They are obviously devoted to their baby and take wonderful care of it. Sometimes there seems to be glow over the three of them.

On a Friday evening about a month ago Mary was at the park for a brief visit with her friends while Joe was at home with the baby. At about 9.30 p.m. ary was walking out of the park to go home and nurse the baby, when two young police officers on bikes stopped her and asked for i.d. Jutta was also at the park that evening, baking some late bread in the park ovens. When she noticed the police, she got on her bike and rode over, wondering what was going on with Mary. One of the officers was talking on a cell phone, and then she turned to Mary and said there was a warrant out for her arrest. Mary said that couldn't be. She said she had been involved in a fight a year and a half before, and had got probation, but that she had just seen her probation officer the week before, and everything was fine.

Officer 5404 (she had no name, but a number) said Mary might be lying, and she handcuffed Mary's hands behind her back. Officer 5404 searched Mary's pockets and found a cell phone and two twenty-dollar bills, and asked her why she had so much money, and - when the cell phone rang - why the phone rang so much. Then officer 5404 summoned a cruiser and prepared to take Mary away. Mary was not permitted to call home to let Joe know she was arrested, but a friend who was watching this had called Joe.

Jutta asked the officer if Mary would be allowed to nurse the baby before she was taken away. The officer asked Jutta who she was, and when she said she worked in the park, Officer 5404 said Jutta should move along then, and go about her business. Jutta asked again if Mary could nurse the baby, but then Officer 5404 said she should be quiet or she would be arrested too - for obstructing the police.

The police car and Joe arrived at the park about the same time, Joe running along the sidewalk with the baby in his arms. The baby was crying and Jutta asked the officers if Mary could just nurse the baby in the police car efore she was taken away. The officer driving the car joined with Officer 5404 in warning Jutta again: if she didn't stop talking to them, she would be arrested and her bike would be confiscated. They said Mary could not nurse the baby, that Mary would be taken to Eleven Division, and Joe could take a cab and go to the station separately - that was none of their concern.

Mary asked Joe to hold up the baby so she could kiss it goodbye. But Officer 5404 jerked Mary away by the handcuffs, and put her in the cruiser.

So Jutta went home and got her car and drove Joe and the baby to Eleven Division. The baby had cried itself to sleep. When they got to the station, there were eight officers behind the desk, just chatting, and Jutta realized that maybe it was a slow night for police.

Mary was there only a short time. As soon as she got there, the people at Eleven Division checked her name and realized this had all been a computer error - there was no arrest warrant. Apparently the computer was acting up - this was the fifth such error that evening. Mary was told she was free to go.

It was bitter cold by then and Jutta took them all home - Mary and Joe and the baby sleeping in her car seat. Mary said she couldn't believe how the police had treated Jutta - they and their friends in the park had assumed that only black people get that kind of treatment. It's true that it's mainly black youth who get randomly i.d.'d in the park by police. But it may be that, in Jutta's choice of staying and witnessing this kind of police activity, she may be in some danger of being arrested too, for being there, the next time. She is careful to speak respectfully but that may not help. It's sad, that "community policing" has come to this: a neighbourhood where so many people know one another; a police force where close to 70 per cent of the officers live outside of the city; and a certainty, on the part of these new young police staff, that they must ward off attempts at bridging the gap: if necessary, by arresting people who try to tell them something about the place where they are, and about how people are affected by their behaviour.

But this time, nobody went to jail. Instead, Mary and Joe took their baby back to their warm apartment. Jutta went back to the park, to take the midnight bread out of the oven. She felt like Mary and Joe and the baby had come safely through the flight into Egypt. And the bread was just fine.

Jutta told this story to the Superintendent Kaproski, of Fourteen Division, Officer 5404's boss. He said he'd look into it and call back, but he never did. Now we'll tell it to the Police Services Board (in case it's changing) and also to Ontario's new Solicitor-General. One of these days maybe a constructive conversation about these kinds of park stories will begin, with people who have the ability to make such stories stop happening.

posted Sepember, 2003

A call from Police Supt.Glenn Paproski, about the racial profiling follow-up

One evening this past May, Jutta Mason watched as three police officers questioned a young black man who was walking along the sidewalk, talking on a cell phone, beside the rink house. On the basis of what she observed, she sent a letter the next day to Chief Julian Fantino, of the Toronto Police Service. She wrote that it seemed to her the officers were "fishing" when they questioned this young man, and quoted one of the police officers, who had told her, as she stood there watching, to "go hug a tree". A number of difficult exchanges followed. But at the end of August, the new (since January) head of Fourteen Division, Superintendent Glenn Paproski, called after receiving a copy of our August newsletter from Chief Fantino's office. He said he liked the newsletter generally but was disturbed by its content relative to the police. He also said he wanted to come to the park, see it for himself, and talk about the whole matter. We look forward to his visit.

posted August, 2003

Racial Profiling Follow-up II

One evening in May, Jutta Mason watched as three police officers questioned a young black man who was walking along the sidewalk, talking on a cell phone, beside the rink house. On the basis of what she observed, she wrote a letter the next day to Chief Julian Fantino, of the Toronto Police Service (also posted in the park). She wrote that it seemed to her the officers were "fishing" when they questioned this young man, and quoted one of the police officers, who had told her, as she stood there watching, to "go hug a tree". The letter resulted in a request for Jutta to come to Fourteen Division and be interviewed. This interview, which was taped, lasted over an hour and resulted in a formal police report complete with cover page, index and appendices (available at the rink house for anyone who wants to see it). In defence of the apparently random police questioning of the young black man, the report cited (1) a statistical increase in car thefts in Fourteen Division, (2) the fact that car thieves tend to use cell phones, and (3) that as they observed the young man, he changed direction from westbound to eastbound (actually walking back up the sidewalk toward the police).

The report also suggested that anyone who, like Jutta, stops to observe police questioning could be charged with obstructing police, a charge carrying a possible jail sentence of two years less a day. In addition, the document reported as fact what the officers recalled about the event. Their version contradicted what Jutta had said both in her letter to Chief Fantino, and in the taped interview. In effect, it suggested that she must be a liar or a meddlesome fool, or both.

This is another unfortunate episode in our regrettably lengthy history of unhelpful relations with Fourteen Division. Our attempts at building a working relationship first ran into trouble ten years ago, when we wanted to change the threatening, uncivil atmosphere at the rink house in winter. The police told the park supervisor then that he couldn't count on them to help park staff enforce the city's own public-space by-laws. As a result the city's park supervisor had to make a contract with Intelligard, a private security company, for one winter, until the rink problems began to resolve.

Attempts to meet with individual community police officers, to explain what we wanted to do at the park, were largely ignored. (We can remember the frustration of waiting at the rink house at some of the scheduled meeting times and having the officers never arrive, nor even call to cancel.) When the CAP program gave police extra millions to give closer attention to public space, the result was more random questioning of youth (mainly but not only black) who were sitting at picnic tables, but continuing slow (or no) response to calls by either park staff or park users reporting park drunkenness or threatening behaviour.

A 1999 police-community partnership grant for $22,000 from the provincial Ministry of the Solicitor General had many good, long-term safety effects in the park, except that the final report had to regretfully conclude that no partnership had been established between police and the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. The same year, a charge resulting from group vandalism in the playground was lost in the detective's drawer and never came to court. (The list of missed connections is long and it's archived on the park web site.)

Even major incidents had uncertain responses. This newsletter was started the month after a vicious public beating-and-kicking (of one man, in the head) incident by a group at the basketball court in September 2000, watched by many witnesses. 911 calls brought one cruiser (and an ambulance for the victim), followed by a denial, the next day, that the incident had happened at all. So many people had seen or heard of the kicking/ beating that a neighbourhood petition was sent to the Fourteen Division superintendent asking for clarification. It turned up the information that the kicking was to settle an issue between basketball players, and that since the victim (who was black, as were many of the attackers) did not want to lay charges, there would be no follow-up. And there wasn't.

Most recently, when a man with two pit bulls was threatening park users, police did not arrive at the park until 45 minutes after the first call for help - not until the pit bulls had attacked a second dog and its owner and all the Havelock Street porches were full of people who heard the screams. Then there were three cruisers, fast, and the man was arrested on a charge of assault with a weapon, but the damage had been done.

There is a problem of responsiveness to public concerns here. Discrediting people who speak up about it, or suggesting that they might be subject to arrest, are not good ways for police to address this problem. A more constructive connection between police and our community would be good for everyone. We urge Chief Fantino to actively promote such a connection. We are ready to begin whenever there can be a real conversation.

One stipulation, though - our community includes young men who are black. Obviously, every person who is a danger to others should be challenged, in court if necessary. But merely walking along the street and talking on a cell phone, during a statistical fluctuation in car thefts, should not result in being stopped by police. The young man who was questioned while walking by the park in May must have thought that too. On that evening, he smiled and nodded as police pressed him for his identification papers. But eventually he politely asserted his legal right to leave without showing his i.d., and walked away.

When he had left, Jutta stayed and argued with the police about their "fishing." They maintained that she was ignorant of the real dangers of living in this area and being in the park, and that if she had any opinions about their procedures she could keep them to herself or get them off her chest at a meeting. As this tedious and certainly fruitless argument was still going on, the young man came walking back. He shook Jutta's hand - a risky gesture in that situation - and thanked her, and then left again. Jutta felt ashamed at his courage and at the history that may have prompted his handshake. She was glad, however, that the laws of this country do not forbid any person from standing and observing while police question another person. If the observer is an older middle-class white woman, good citizenship is not as risky. She recommends it to others in her situation.

posted July, 2003

Pit bull attack

Early on a rainy evening on Sunday June 29, a man drinking beside the field house with his friends, and his two pit bulls, sat by while his dogs attacked an old arthritic dog that was just entering the park. Some dog walkers pulled the pit bulls off their victim, and their owner secured them on their leashes, but he seemed to be in an altered state, shouting and threatening. Police were called, but they were busy with the Pride parade and didn't come for a long time. More dog walkers arrived and stood at the far end of the soccer field hoping the police would come. Finally the pit bull owner got really angry. He denounced all white people and then he let go of his dogs. They ran toward one of the more recently arrived dog walkers and attacked his dog, Lloyd. Although Lloyd was normally a rather meek dog, when he saw the pit bulls coming toward him, he reared up on his hind legs and shielded his master. Lloyd got most of his ear bitten off, and his master, trying to ward off the dogs, got cut and scratched up badly.

By that point all the porches adjacent to the park were full of people and they were all calling 911. One of the other dog walkers had to repeatedly hit the pit bulls on the head with a shovel to get them to let go of their victim. The police did come then, four cruisers strong, and the pit bulls' owner was arrested. Lloyd the dog, meantime, was taken to a night-time emergency dog clinic where his ear was re-attached. By morning, his owners had racked up a crippling veterinary bill of over $1000.

The police, when they took a statement from Lloyd's owner at the hospital as he was getting his own injuries looked after, said they had arrested the pit bull owner and charged him with assault with a weapon. So the pit bull owner will certainly be prohibited from going to the park as a condition of bail and again as a condition of sentencing. His dogs, meantime, are in quarantine, as a precaution.

By all accounts, the pit bull owner and his friends seem to be strangers to the park. It may be that they are the same group of occasional visitors who got into difficulty about a month ago when one of the group drank himself into unconsciousness near the field house, and an ambulance was called. In both cases the "friends" all vanished before police/ ambulance arrived. Young park regulars regard these visitors badly, and avoid them. It may be that it's time to make sure these folks don't come around here any more. If anyone sees a group behaving badly by the side of the field house, please alert the park staff (they're often in the park late now that it's summer). They will take steps to encourage any drinking group to find another place for their foolish business.

posted July, 2003

Racial Profiling Follow-up

The event reported in the June newsletter, when three police officers stopped a person on the street beside the park and questioned him - apparently because he was black and was using a cell phone and was walking along the sidewalk several days after some cars had been stolen at the mall - these actions had a sequel. A letter describing this event, to Police Chief Julian Fantino, led to an invitation to the witness to come and make a statement at Fourteen Division. It is possible that one of the three officers (who told the witness to "go hug a tree" when she questioned him that night) will face some sort of internal discipline. However there has been no further word yet.

posted June, 2003

Racial Profiling in the park

As many park users have observed, Toronto Police officers periodically approach young men of colour at the park and ask to see their i.d. It's called "going fishing" - approaching people out of the blue in case they might be arrestable. Since this is illegal, Jutta Mason questioned an officer during one of these incidents recently. He told her to "go hug a tree." This and other comments by the officer led to a letter about the incident sent to Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino on May 13. Since the letter got no reply, a follow-up letter will be sent to the Toronto Police Services Board shortly.

posted June, 2003

Wal-mart Security

In the last newsletter we reported on the time in February when Wal-mart undercover security staff came to arrest someone in front of the rink house and told park staff that they might be arrested too if they stayed to watch. A complaint to Wayne Mclean, the manager of Wal-mart, yielded nothing more than a suggestion that we would hear from their legal department if we published an account of what we experienced. So we wrote to Wal-mart Canada's CEO, Mario Palozzi, asking him to explain why Wal-mart Security would be threatening park staff with arrest on park property, and why the Wal-mart manager would be hinting at a libel suit when we wrote about this. Mr.Palozzi didn't reply either so we contacted the Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security, Private Investigator and Security Guards Branch. They're now looking into the matter. More news: next newsletter.

For the background to the Wal-Mart story, see Wal-Mart Security comes to the park >>

For the followup analysis by a security industry expert, see An Expert's Analysis >>

posted March 1, 2004

Wal-Mart Security, Part I: Wal-Mart Security comes to the park:

On the first farmersí market day in March the farmers were lined up in front of the rink house to unload their food, when park staff member Caitlin heard some angry shouting and she ran out to take a look. Not ten feet from the front door, two men were shouting at a man sitting on the bench, and they seemed to be pushing him around. Caitlin asked what was going on. The two men said they were Wal-Mart Security, and one man flashed his badge at her and told her to go away "for her own good." But Caitlin hadnít been able to see the badge clearly, only the words "Wal-Mart," before he put it away again and shouted at the man on the bench some more. Alarmed at the situation, Caitlin didnít go away. The men (not in uniform) told her that she was interfering with their investigation, that she had no right to be there, and that she might herself be arrested if she didnít leave.

At that point Jutta came out of the rink house and found the two men apparently trying to force the man on the bench to come with them. The man was protesting, the Wal-Mart men were shouting, the farmers were backing away - a mess! And Juttaís arrival didnít help. The Wal-Mart men told her that she, too, was in danger -- of maybe being knifed by the man sitting on the bench, or of being arrested for "interfering with their investigation." Jutta said she didnít think the man would stab her and that she didnít intend to interfere, but that she wasnít leaving either. They said she hasnít allowed to stand there. But she did anyway. The Wal-Mart men called the police, the park staff called the Wal-Mart manager, and then everyone stood around and waited, still arguing.

Waiting sometimes helps. When tempers had calmed a bit, it emerged that the man on the bench had been seen on Wal-Martís closed circuit cameras, walking through the store. But he wasnít allowed to be in the mall because a year before he had been caught stealing shower curtains, and part of his sentence was to stay off mall property. So when the guards saw him on the video, they went running to find him. They found him at our park.

The man on the bench said it was true what the guards said. He said he knew he shouldnít go into the mall but that winter was cold and the mall was way more pleasant than out on the sidewalk. He said the guards had given him a few warnings to stay away, and he knew they were right, but he had always weakened and returned again. The guards told him that now he was in much bigger trouble, that heíd have a lifetime ban and on top of that he would be charged with resisting arrest. Apparently that charge was because the man had refused to come back to Wal-Mart with the guards when they found him sitting on our park bench.

However when the police arrived, they made no arrest, just gave the man a ticket for trespassing. The Wal-Mart guards left. The man on the bench sat there for a while, folding the ticket over and over, and the n he left too. And since the Wal-Mart manager, Wayne MacLean, had never showed up, Jutta went inside the rink house and called him again. She asked him whether the storeís plain-clothes security guards have the power to order park staff to leave park property, whether they can charge someone with "resisting arrest," whether they can try to force someone to accompany them. He said they are licensed by the Toronto police, and that Jutta could find out the answers from the police, but that he was not interested in sharing what Wal-Mart security guards can and canít do.

Sigh. This means weíll have to look into it ourselves. He could have saved us the effort by just telling us. But friendly, candid talk is underrated. So weíll have to do some digging. Any information from the neighbourhood is welcome: to be continued...

posted March 1, 2004

Wal-Mart Security, Part II: a security expert writes a commentary.

A security industry insider, a 17-year veteran of the private security industry with an MSc in Security & Risk Management, read the newsletter story of the Wal-Mart Security guards coming to our park. I asked him what he thought of the events that happened on that day. I also told him that when we showed this story to the manager of Wal-Mart prior to putting it in our newsletter, the manager said he would send our account to Wal-Mart's legal department -- because they could sue us for libel.

Here is our expert's evaluation of our experience, and also of the warning we got from the Wal-Mart manager afterwards. He writes:

This incident extends into several areas of the law, as well as the business and security practices of the Company involved. I will break down these areas and deal with each in turn.

The authority to arrest

The Loss Prevention Officers you encountered are private citizens, and as such have three lines of authority from which they draw the power to arrest. The first is section 494 of the Criminal Code of Canada which authorizes private citizens to arrest those "found committing" a criminal offence on or in relation to the property. Off of the property, section 494 CC also allows private security guards (citizens) to arrest anyone they "find committing" an indictable [more serious] offence. The second class of arrest is for breach of peace under the common law, where a private citizen may arrest a person who is involved in, or is about to join, a current breach of the peace. The final arrest power flows from the Provincial Legislation in Ontario entitled "The Trespass to Property Act" (TPA). Here, an agent of a property owner (security guard) or "Occupier" can arrest someone who has been barred from the property and returns without lawful authority [Section 2 of the TPA].

Trespass To Premises Act

From my read of the article, it is the latter class of offence for which the Loss Prevention Officers were attempting to make an arrest in this case. This is where the fun starts......Under the TPA [Section 9(1)], an occupier of premises (security guard) may arrest without warrant any person he/she believes on reasonable and probable grounds to be on the premises in contravention of Section 2. From the admissions of the unfortunate fellow on the bench, it seems that he had been previously issued a verbal or written exclusion from the store/Mall and was therefore arrestable if found on the property in violation of this notice. Note my underlinings. Section 9(1) does not say "reasonable and probable grounds to have been on the property" (i.e. this is not "past" tense). Clearly, the suspect has to be found and arrested while still on the property for such arrest under the TPA to be lawful.

When we move off of the property, the TPA [Section 10] states that a police officer can arrest a person in contravention of Section 2 when the trespasser "has made fresh departure from the premises" and has refused to give a name or has given a false name. This section is silent with respect to the powers of an occupier to arrest once the trespasser has left the property concerned. As the legislation has a section on arrests off property - but does not specifically extend such power of arrest to occupiers, I conclude that occupiers and their agents can only arrest trespassers when they are actually on the property. It seems to me, therefore, that the Loss Prevention Officers in this case had no right to approach the trespasser in a public park to attempt an arrest for a TPA offence that had occurred some time earlier.

Assuming for a moment that the arrest did have lawful grounds.........The Loss Prevention Officers would not have any authority to "order about" members of the public on public property. If a member of the public interferes in a lawful arrest by, let's say, inserting themselves between the parties, then that member of the public could be arrested for obstruction of justice under the Criminal Code of Canada. Aside from this type of overt interference by a bystander - there is nothing in law that permits a security guard (or police officer for that matter) to arrest a member of the public who is asking questions to satisfy herself that the attempted arrest taking place before her is indeed being exercised with lawful authority. This is particularly the case when there is lingering ambiguity as to the identity of the arrestors [i.e. the "hurried" showing of the badge]. Security guards have absolutely no powers beyond the average citizen when operating on public property. The fact that the Loss Prevention Officers were purportedly "conducting an investigation" is of absolutely no matter. Any arrest they made of a bystander in this situation would be unlawful, and any force exerted to remove a bystander from the park would have been an unlawful assault, actionable by criminal charges.

Resisting Arrest

In order for the trespasser to have been arrested or charged for "resisting arrest" a lawful arrest must have been resisted! It appears from the earlier analysis that this arrest was not lawful. Either way, the trespasser cannot be charged with "resisting arrest" [there is no such offence in the Criminal Code], but rather a charge of "escaping lawful custody" could be brought if the trespasser, having been arrested, had escaped custody [not the case here, or so it seems]. In addition, a charge of assault could be levied against the trespasser if he resisted the efforts to arrest him in a direct way. In the present case, even in the unlikely event the arrest was lawful, the resistance by the trespasser seemed to have been passive resistance [in other words, he was being uncooperative as opposed to overtly aggressive in his resistance]. Court cases on assault charges in these situations are usually dismissed. It appears that when the police arrived they recognized that an offence of "resisting arrest" [or a related offence] had not been made out. They decided to solely issue a violation under the TPA. If indeed the first time the Loss Prevention staff encountered the trespasser following the original trespassing offence was in the park, this seems to be a case of false arrest. In this case, the trespasser would be entitled to resist such an arrest with force.

Business & Security Practices

I have a few comments in relation to the actions taken by the security personnel involved in this episode. Firstly, I must say, it is going against common sense and normal industry practice (and it seems, the law) for security personnel to go off property searching for a suspect involved in a very minor offence which was perpetrated some time in the recent past. The decision to pursue an arrest in these circumstances [unless there are details of which I am unaware] is both cavalier and high-handed. The pursuit and arrest were unnecessary. What kind of imminent threat did the man on the bench pose to the Company? This seems to be a case of "teaching someone a lesson" under the guise of an arrest made by persons who ought to have known better!

The Manager was incorrect in stating that Loss Prevention staff are "licensed by the police". This is not the case in any jurisdiction in Canada. If the Loss Prevention Officers work for a security company contracted by the Manager's Company, they will be licensed under the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act (PISGA) of Ontario. The PISGA does not expand any of the powers or authority of security personnel. On the other hand, if the Loss Prevention Officers work directly for the Company, they do not have to be licensed at all. I find it surprising the Manager was unfamiliar with the powers of his employees, and further, was unresponsive to a legitimate concern raised by a member of the community. I believe the Manager owes the community an apology for the inaappropriate actions of his employees, and for his mishandling of the aftermath of this incident.

Further, I was aghast to hear this Manager had the audacity to threaten a legal suit against the publication of your newsletter story. There are so many reasons, both legal and moral, why this threat holds no weight whatsoever. You are ever so entitled to print the facts as you saw them and you should have no fear of reprisal. This threat smacks of an attempt to bully a muzzle on to a legitimate story that the community ought to be made aware of.


All in all I was shocked to read about the events you and your colleagues witnessed. I applaud you for having the courage to stand up for your convictions and challenge what appears, on the facts presented, to be an unlawful arrest by persons in authority. I find this action all the more reprehensible in the case of security personnel who are trained in their powers and limitations with respect to arrests. This incident brings to mind a quote, with which I wholeheartedly agree, from a Judge from the Ontario Court of Justice:

R v JC [1995] OJ No. 1637 at para. 23 (Ont Ct of Just - Prov Div) Ė "Security guards should be expected, by the nature of their work, to be more aware of the limitations on their powers than ordinary citizens. When they exceed their authority a remedy should be available which acts as a strong reminder to them and other persons employed in such positions that their powers are circumscribed by the law".


Despite the facts of this unfortunate case, it appears the fellow on the bench was given a ticket under the TPA which he must pay. It appears he was on the store's property in violation of the TPA. However, in my opinion, based on the facts presented, a false arrest and imprisonment took place and a civil suit could be so brought against the Loss Prevention employees and their employer by the gentleman on the bench. In reality though, this will probably not happen.

You could call the provincial agency (Solicitor General's Dept) that administers the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act (PISGA). If indeed the Loss Prevention staff are hired through a contract company, you and your colleagues could lodge a written complaint about this incident. This incident would be investigated by Police Officers attached to the PISGA section. Ideally, you could bring a "public interest" complaint against these security personnel, but as far as I'm aware, this type of mechanism is only applicable in certain provinces (BC is one - not sure on Ontario) in connection with complaints against the police.

Please let me know how the follow up to this incident plays out, and if I can offer further assistance. Situations such as this really irk me!!!!! I'm proud of the industry I represent (most of the time)....................

posted January, 2003

Park/Rink Safety

When we first began to try to turn the rink around, Tino DeCastro (our park's supervisor) had to hire a private security company (1996) and that winter there were 21 calls to that company (they came with dogs) or to police, for assistance. Now we're down to one or two calls to police per season. And some of the young folks who worried us in those early years have returned, older now, working at jobs instead of failing at school. They come to the rink to play hockey, not to make trouble. Many of them seem to have grown into fine young men, and it's been wonderful to see them. Maybe we over-reacted, in the early days. But the days of fights, drug deals, tables and chairs flung upside down inside the change rooms, seem to be largely behind us.

Every once in a while we get a reminder of how it used to be. One Wednesday this January a group of students who have been a problem at St.Mary's High School, and an even larger groups of their hangers-on, came onto the rink and started a fight right out on the ice. They were pushed off the rink and went into the rink house, continuing the fight inside. One had a hoe from the bake oven. The (female!) staff grabbed it away and the rink staff booted all of the kids outside. Then there was a stand-off, in front of the rink house and across the street. When rink staff called Tony DeSouza, principal of St.Mary's, he came running with his special camera and all the kids hurried away toward the mall.

Later that day, in an unrelated visit, two mounted police came to the park to let the staff know they were working on the drug squad, and that they would be by the park often from now on. They had very nice horses. However they have not returned since then.

The next day (farmers' market day) when school let out, the groups tried to pick up where they left off, in front of the rink house this time. An extra staff person, Lea Ambros, had been assigned to stand outside and not let those young people come inside: the thought of the farmers' market broccoli and meat pies flying through the air was unattractive to us. When the groups refused to leave the park, police were called. Since no weapons were reported, Fourteen Division sent only one small policewoman, who chased them into the mall.

But then a week later an older man came running into the rink to call 911 and report a fight in front of the school (at the rink corner). We tried to discourage him from calling 911 because it seemed to us the police did not regard these fights as serious. However, the older man was right: a fight involving the same group of rascals turned into an attack with hockey sticks, a baseball bat, and a rake handle. Three youth were sent to hospital - for stitches. (Evidently the attackers used admirable restraint with their weapons.) This time police brought many cars and even a hovering helicopter. Now the issue will perhaps be taken more seriously, maybe even resulting in some expulsions. And the rink staff won't be hearing any more taunts from the rascals, calling staff "white trash." We have many wonderful shinny hockey players from all different cultures, using the rink, but they don't use such words.

Final note: some of this group of troublemakers were the same ones who got the powerful park hoses turned on them by Arie Kamp, the park gardener, last May (see May 2002 newsletter story in the park newsletter archive). Does that mean that trampling petunias may be the first indicator of a rascal?

Content last modified on May 17, 2008, at 07:29 PM EST