Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jun 2003
Source: Flamborough Post (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003, Flamborough Post
Author: Gord Manzer
Bookmark: (Youth)


Alcohol poisoning, fights, emotional disturbances and mischief can
stem from summer teen gatherings

The hot weather is on its way and many young people will be eager for
a chance to hang out with friends. But taking part in a traditional
bush party may lead to trouble in the form of a police officer.

Due to Flamborough's abundance of open green space and well-forested
land, bush parties are a common occurrence during the summer months.
But Hamilton Police Services has introduced a new program that aims to
gear down the number of bush parties in the area.

The program - Special Attention Follow-up and Enforcement (SAFE) - is
governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It is a proactive program
that will encourage youths to seek more positive recreational pursuits
than that often found at these gatherings.

"There will be zero tolerance to alcohol and drugs," warned Const.
Frank Miscione of SAFE.

The SAFE team will be working mostly night shifts throughout the
summer to combat bush parties. Officers will be in uniform on bicycles
or in cruisers some nights and in plain clothes other nights.

In the Waterdown community, SAFE's main targets will be the Margaret
Street cemetery, a popular spot near Sobeys plaza on Dundas Street and
Sealy and Memorial Parks. Outside Waterdown, the program will patrol
Webster's Falls and Spencer Gorge in Greensville.

At a typical bush party, young adults or teenagers gather in a
forested or sheltered area and throw a party, often involving alcohol
and occasionally a bonfire. Sometimes drugs come into play as well,
say police.

Although there are no specific laws against throwing a bush party,
many laws may be broken during one, including the Liquor License Act,
trespassing and, on occasion, the infringement of the Railway
Trespassing Act.

Const. Steven Wenzowski of Hamilton Police Services said bush parties
are very common in the Flamborough area. Those that aren't broken up
by police often escape because bush parties occur at the busiest times
for police.

"Many bush parties are held on Friday or Saturday night," he said,
noting that police must prioritize their time. Domestic disputes and
drunk drivers are often a prime concern on weekends.

That is where SAFE comes into play. The specialized group knows where
many parties are held. There is also a SAFE hotline - 905-546-3889 -
that citizens can call if a new location springs up or if they hear
word of an upcoming party.

"It is important that the community sees we're there," said Const. Ron
Wheeler of SAFE. "We welcome the calls. The public is our eyes and

Wenzowski added that the dangers of a bush party can include alcohol
poisoning and injuries from running through the woods in the dark.
There is also a risk of a bonfire spreading through the brush.

And problems can arise when people's emotions are affected by alcohol,
he added.

"Sometimes people don't know the other people at the party," Wenzowski
said. "That's where the problem lies."

Fights are common. In Waterdown, a stabbing took place earlier this
year by the Margaret Street cemetery.

"Our major concern is the damage people do to property when they're
leaving the party," he said.

In the past, headstones have been kicked over in graveyards and eggs
have been thrown at homes.

"There's no need for that behaviour," Wenzowski said.

But Wheeler said that the parties are not always the problem.The
perception of the gatherings can also be a concern. "There is a fear
of crime, even if no crime is being committed," he pointed out.

He noted that the hangout near Waterdown plaza is a prime example.
Youths are out in the open for the community to see and the fear of
crime rises, even though the youths may not be doing anything worse
than loitering.

Wheeler said that a regular patrol will be made of the plaza in marked
cars so that both the youths and the community see action being taken.
He referred to the SAFE mission statement: "We are committed to
creating a safe community, which can be enjoyed by our citizens
without the fear of crime."

For more information about SAFE and bush parties, or to report a
problem, call the SAFE hotline at 905-546-3889. 
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