Torotonians at a public meeting Thursday about drinking in Trinity Bellwoods Park expressed enthusiastic support for relaxing liquor laws in public parks.
Coun. Mike Layton called the meeting after some local residents complained about drinking in the park, and about 100 people turned out. After group discussions at tables set up in the community centre, a spokesperson for each group shared their views. The majority asked for more washrooms, more garbage cans and police enforcement of troublemakers, but not casual drinkers.
For example, local resident Mike Hook got loud applause for suggesting the city lobby the province to adjust liquor laws to allow for drinking and open alcohol containers, but keep laws and enforcement against public drunkenness and related problems.
“The park is many people’s backyards for those of us who don’t have backyards that can entertain 10 to 15 people at a time,” Hook said.
Karen Harrison was among those complaining about drinking. She said seniors have become afraid of the park in recent years. She also complained that the meeting was full of young people, and not seniors like her, so their views weren’t being heard.
14 Division Supt. Mario Di Tommaso said police launched Project Green Glasses to ensure public order in his divisions parks last summer, and any recent enforcement isn’t “a crackdown.”
He said it’s not for police to separate troublesome drinkers from safe drinkers, when drinking in public is against the law.
Over the past two months, his officers have written about 115 tickets in Trinity Bellwoods Park for alcohol-related offences, he said.
The alcohol-related problems at Trinity Bellwoods have included loud noise beyond midnight, drug use, as well as fights, he said.
Di Tommaso said there have been no sexual assault reports connected to the park. There was an alleged aggravated assault, but he would not say if alcohol was involved.
On June 27 police arrested 44-year-old Ben Metzger for allegedly pushing a cyclist off his bike.
“We’ve had broken beer bottles left behind,” said Di Tommaso. “That’s certainly a danger to all people and animals. We’ve also had condoms left behind, so it’s that level of excess,” he added.