By Kevin Woodhouse
This past late August’s return of John Abbott College and McGill University students return to classes did not start off well for the citizens of Sainte Anne de Bellevue.
A near-street-brawl involving 20 plus adolescents at 3:40 a.m. that Friday morning, as witnessed by The Suburban, appeared to be the last straws for residents fed up of being woken up by drunken revelers every Friday morning following Thursday night parties along boardwalk watering holes, namely Annies, which invites a lot of young partiers out every week.
The city of Sainte Anne de Bellevue and Montreal Police Station 1 teamed up together to install some protocols to ensure that the minority of students causing trouble weekly would not reflect too poorly on the academic institutions and that citizens could sleep in peace.
Commander Richard Thouin spoke to the assembled at last Monday’s council meeting, detailing measures that have been installed, and continued to be enforced, that have already bore fruit, as Station 1 has received no complaints since their implementation.
“We took a three pronged approach: communication, repression and prevention,” said Thouin. “because increased police presence alone won’t help, we needed some strategies.”
For starters, police have undertaken a “zero tolerance policy” when it comes to public incivilities such as public intoxication, public urination, crying out, fighting, graffiti or vandalism. Infractions will cost now up to $500 for offenders.
“We will also no longer just be concentrating on the main street but to speed the students out of the area.”
One improvement was getting the Société de transports de Montréal to simply move up its 3:30 a.m. late bus to 3:15 a.m., as well as moving the stop adjacent to Annies. Increased lighting will be installed on the main street as criminal deterrents.
In terms of prevention and communication, officers have visited area schools with information kiosks on alcohol abuse and legal implications. Signage reminding customers leaving the bars, as well as a last call message from the DJ, will explain the need for “returning home in a respectful manner” or face the legal consequences therein.
“There is no guarantee this will work, but we know we are the right track,” said Thouin. “We will continue with this plan as new students arrive.”
The police commander also praised residents who made 911 calls during the late night fracas. Due to the number of calls, police created a special group to deal with the problem and would not otherwise have been so proactive.