“An urban myth surfaced a year ago that it was permissible to drink alcohol in the park and people were coming from outside the area because they thought what they were hearing was true,” said Staff Sergeant James Hogan, of 14 Division Community Response Unit (CRU). “On weekends and holidays, thousands of people were engaged in drinking down here.”
Upset with the damaging behaviour, park users and residents voiced their concerns with police.
“Things came to a bit of a head when nearby residents became very unhappy,” said Hogan. “But the culture of drinking had already taken hold. We were in a reactive mode in response to residents who felt the park was out of control and it wasn’t a safe place anymore.”
To combat the problem, police created Project White Squirrel.
“The name came after the albino squirrel family that can be found in Trinity Bellwoods Park,” Hogan pointed out. “With the area becoming more populated with the development of condos, we met with residents and City of Toronto Parks officials in April to address the situation. We wanted to set a new tone and change the climate this summer.
“We asked the city, who we were helping, if they had anything on their website or any code of conduct for parks that could be used to reinforce the message that a park is a shared resource and everyone wants to enjoy the green space in the city. We suggested that they could create a pamphlet like we do for our educational campaigns that we could distribute to people.”
This plan has worked.
Hogan and his crew have distributed almost 1,000 pamphlets in the last six weeks.
This item was exerpted from the Toronto Police Services newsletter. More of the item can be found at the Toronto Police Services newsletter, published: 1:27 p.m. July 11, 2014