This sign was posted on the park bulletin boards, and it led to action.
September-October 1998: new youth moved in to basketball court area. There was loud music with violent and obscene lyrics. They refused to turn it off. There was obvious drinking, and cursing against staff and volunteers when they objected. Also cursing directed at young women walking by, if they ignored or objected to invitations from the group. When some large wooden park compost boxes used as benches for drinking were moved to another area of the park, the boxes were set on fire.
A large sign about park rules was posted beside the basketball court.
During the winter the basketball area was covered with snow.
April 1999: arrival of another new group of about 15 youth at the park. About a week later most of the fence of the community garden was burned up, to which some of this group admitted (without giving any impression of remorse). Some often appeared to be heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Game: mock beatings, with loud screams, of one of their group, so that the park echoed with the noise. This group stopped coming soon after the return of youth from last year.
May 23: Sunday afternoon -- shouting of obscenities by a man who often comes to the basketball court, for about 20 minutes. No one tried to stop him. Then some young girls walked by and angered him, and he shouted even louder until they had gone all the way to other end of the park. When staff asked him to stop shouting such words he did not stop, and others sitting with him said they could not stop him. A resident called police and they said they would come.
May 26: Fight on the basketball court at ten a.m., developing into a chase with a machete and a knife near the park clubhouse. The youth disappeared before police came.
May 28: Three undercover police came to the park to arrest some drug suspects. This involved a foot chase through the park, an attack on an officer, the use of mace, and two police cars and an ambulance. Some of the basketball group were angry at the style of the arrests and shouted “they didn’t do anything.” An observer said, “how do you know they didn’t do anything?” This made a number of the youth more angry. The same man who had often cursed loudly in the park told the observer he hoped she would break her neck and called her other obscene names.
June 4, evening: Music with uncensored lyrics playing at basketball court. A warning to turn it off was ignored, so the court lights were turned off. Swearing and angry talk and open drinking at four tables. Large drinking party in southeast corner of playground area. No police presence.
June 5: park bench damage and broken glass in playground area from previous night’s drinking party. More uncensored music at basketball court, cursing and obscenities echoing clearly throughout the north end of the park. Open drinking. Court lights were turned off again in the evening.
June 7: Contacted recreation supervisor. He ordered the hydro turned off permanently at basketball court electrical outlet. Three youth from basketball court came to complain about this as an infringement of their rights to plug their tape player into a public power source. Their tone was intimidating and the staff locked the building for their protection. Later that afternoon a youth came into the building, bleeding from cuts made by a broken bottle. He took bandages but refused to go to hospital or charge his assailant.
June 10: some youth rolled and smoked marijuana provocatively in front of staff, and there was open drinking. A meeting was held at the basketball court with 8 youth and a Regent Park recreation staff who works with high risk youth. Other youth sat elsewhere and refused to participate. A few of the youth passionately defended their rights as citizens to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and play loud uncensored music in the park, because it’s public space.
June 11: drinking party in playground area. Called Community Response Police and they said they’d come but no one saw them that evening, although by that time many neighbours had called their city councilors and/ or Community Response (about the whole problem).
June 12: lunchtime drinking party in park beside public walkway near Dufferin Street. The youth when questioned said the police had gone by but had just smiled at them because open drinking is okay as long as you’re not doing any harm.
What we would like:
1. Patrols of the park by police in the afternoons and in the evening, several times on weekend evenings when the weather is nice.
2. Ticketing and confiscation of obvious alcohol.
3. Timely police response to a call regarding the presence of a person on trespass. In the rare case when it is necessary to serve a person consistently breaking the rules with a letter of trespass, this will have no good effect if it is not supported by timely police backup.
4. Bi-monthly briefings between a park staff, a resident, an officer from Fourteen Division, and a representative from your office, until the problems have improved.
Re: group beating/kicking at the park, Sept.3 2000
From Jutta Mason: It looks as though the Police Service is perhaps finally beginning to attend to this incident. After the group letter went off to Councillor Silva, notifying him that all correspondence would now be posted at the park, he called and so did Staff Sgt.Glen Holt, head of Fourteen Division Community Response. Sgt.Holt has never been very interested in the park and his attitude was no friendlier this time when he called. He said that Councillor Silva’s “this-was-just-a-fight-with-a-drunk-guy” letter matched the officer’s report in all important details. When I questioned him he said he could reveal no more because the report is confidential. He also said that if people think the victim might have been afraid to talk, they’re letting their imagination run away with them. Then he said that there was no need to send extra police to the park in the hours or days following this attack because “the park gets intense police attention all the time.”
This conversation goaded me into sending Staff Sgt.Holt a list of the ten last park-related calls for police assistance, ranging over the past 16 months. One of calls was resolved satisfactorily, two had dubious response, and for the other seven calls the response was unsatisfactory or absent. I took the opportunity to copy this letter to Holt’s boss, Superintendent Gottschalk, and also to Chief Julian Fantino, and Councillor Silva.
I also spoke to Bruce Lyne, one of the witnesses to the incident (and one of the six who stopped it). He had heard from both Silva and Holt, but found what they told him very confusing. When he realized that both were saying this incident had been a “fight,” he put out a very strong statement about what he saw on Sept.3. This statement, which matches the account of the two parks staff, is now posted in the park and is in your package here. Joe Sherman also faxed it to Silva and Holt (Bruce Lyne and his family were in the middle of moving house, but he still took the time to work on this).
Soon after that, Councillor Silva wrote a letter to Chief Fantino asking him to look into this, and asking him to “sympathize” with us (??). I heard no more from Holt but Supt.Gottschalk called and said that Chief Fantino had asked him to look into each of the ten cases in my itemized list of park-related calls for police help. I sent him some clarifications and a letter giving some background to the frustrating project of police/citizen/parks collaboration in this area (letter included in this package).
We’ll see. The questions remain, and one hopes that the search for answers at Fourteen Division may turn up some improvements. I’ll keep you closely posted.
P.S.: an assistant from the Police Services Board called to say that we couldn’t raise the matter with them because when the police label something as a “complaint,” that turns it into an internal police matter not subject to the Board’s civilian scrutiny (??!?)
Fourteen Division Police officers have often said to park users and staff that Dufferin Grove Park is dangerous because of the level of criminal activity there. This seems surprising, but Fourteen Division management said that they are not permitted to give details. On September 20, 2005, CELOS therefore requested the following information through the Freedom of Information Act: (1) all Police Occurrence Reports relating to the park from January 2002 to October 2005; (2) all arrest reports from the park for the same period; and (3) all documented reports of citizen/police contacts in the park during the same period. It was understood that names and identifying details would be blanked out.
Click on the bulletin on the right to read more.