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posted January, 2003
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?