Project LEARN 2015 targeting noisy partiers
The initiative, which began more than 12 years ago, is short for Liquor Enforcement and Reduction of Noise. The goal of the project is to remind new and old residents alike of respectful partying behaviours by sending out more patrol officers to enforce bylaws in the downtown area as well as the areas around Western University and Fanshawe College.
The project, which runs until Sept. 26, may threaten to put a damper on parties, but Ken Steeves of the London Police Department says it's more about safety than about stopping partying behaviours altogether.
“We're not trying to discourage anyone from having fun, we just want them to do so responsibly,” Steeves said. “It's a new chapter of their lives and we just want them to make wise decisions.”
Project LEARN has been criticized for targeting students, especially because of the fact that the police target their searches in or around student neighbourhoods. But statistics show that though students are more likely to be ticketed, non-students are more likely to be charged with a criminal offence, the more serious of the two.
In 2013 around 1400 tickets were issued, and 60 per cent of them went to students. There were 105 criminal charges laid, but only 15 of those were to students. The most commonly ticketed offences are public intoxication, public urination and noise complaints.
“One bad decision can haunt you for the rest of your life,” Steeves warned.
Steeves said the zero-tolerance approach that was implemented after the 2012 St. Patrick's Day Riot was unsuccessful. Last year they decided to focus on issuing warnings instead of tickets. This proved to be a better approach.
“We want students to understand that decisions have consequences and we certainly will enforce the laws,” said Luke Edwards, a Special Const. at Fanshawe. Edwards does not want to stop students from having fun either, but says their safety and the safety of those around them should be their focus.
“We want students to be able to come to campus and enjoy their school year, to have fun, to make new relationships and to enjoy the college experience,” he said. “But our number one priority is unquestionably student safety.”
Edwards has some tips for students who want to leave campus to party.
“It just boils down to having a plan, having a support system and being respectful of both yourself, others and the college in general,” Edwards said. “I think if you can hit all three of those things you're going to have a very successful school year.”
Students can download Stay Safe Fanshawe, an app that provides information for Safe Walk, LTC and Taxis, and has more safety tips.