Open meeting to discuss public safety April 2

Proposed changes to the public nuisance bylaw will be presented to City Council by mid-April, but before that happens, the city is offering local residents the chance to voice their opinions.

A public safety meeting will be held April 2 at 6 p.m. at the London Convention Centre (300 York St.) and students and residents will be able to voice their concerns to council members.

“We want to hear from the community — from the residents, the students' council and so on — on their experience and what was of concern, and any ideas or suggestions the public has to improve the situation are welcome,” said Councilor Joe Swan, whose ward includes Fleming Drive. The meeting will also include a status report from police and emergency personnel regarding what happened at the riot and the suggestions they have to help ensure public safety.

A “nuisance party” is defined in the proposed bylaw as a social gathering on public or private property that includes disorderly conduct; public drunkenness or intoxication; damage to public or private property; obstructing the flow of traffic; unreasonable noise (such as loud music, talking or singing); unlawful burning or fireworks; public disturbances (such as fights or threats); outdoor public urination or defecation; and other conduct that could constitute a public nuisance.

The proposed amendment to the nuisance bylaw would enable police officers to disband any parties that are getting out of hand, removing everyone from the premises of the party except for those who permanently reside there. The bylaw aims to give police officers greater proactive control in stopping “unlawful gatherings” before they begin. Penalties for breaking the bylaw include convictions or a maximum fine of $10,000.

Fanshawe students had mixed reactions to the proposed change.

“I think it's a really good idea,” said Stephanie Reimer, a first-year Business student. “Some parties can get way out of control really quickly and I think if the cops could step in and shut them down before they got to that point, it would save a lot of trouble.”

Chris Schwartzer, a second-year General Arts and Science student, disagreed. “I think people are really overreacting to this whole Fleming thing. I don't want the cops to be able to come into my party and kick everyone out just because they think it might get crazy at some point. It seems like a violation to me and it's like they don't trust students to throw parties without them turning into riots.”

Though the proposed change came about due to the Fleming riot, Swan explained that the bylaw aims to control other “hotspots” in the community, such as downtown, Western Road and Sarnia Road. “It really is helping the city come to terms with large gatherings of people in which there's unregulated use of alcohol and when it moves into an unsafe environment It's not just Fanshawe — although that is the primary hotspot we have to deal with — this law has to apply fairly across the community.”

Some people see the proposed bylaw as being in conflict with the potential changes to the concert bylaw — currently concerts can be no louder than 90 decibels and must shut down by 11 p.m.; city council is looking into allowing concerts to run louder and longer — but Swan said he thinks both bylaws could be a positive part of the solution. “Having a concert format on days like St. Patrick's, it gives people a place to go. It can have a really good vibe and a good party atmosphere in a safe and controlled environment I think (the two bylaws) need to be mutually supportive.”

The proposed changes to the bylaw will presented to the London City Council on April 11 and, if approved, are set to take effect the following day. “That's the timeline proposed, but if good suggestions come forward or things need to be worked on, we'll take the time to get it right,” said Swan.

‘To read the proposed public nuisance bylaw for yourself, go to tinyurl.com/nuisancebylaw2012.