By ALAN SHACKLETON
Toronto police held a press conference this morning to get the message out that they will not be tolerating a repeat of the violence and bad behaviour that plagued the Woodbine Beach area last Victoria Day long weekend.
“We cannot and will not tolerate any kind of lawlessness,” said Staff Supt. Paul McIntyre of Toronto police’s East Command at the press conference held at the Woodbine Beach Bathing Station on the morning of Friday, May 19.
“We will not put up with what happened last year.”
In 2022, the Victoria Day long weekend (and especially the night of Sunday, May 22) saw huge crowds coming into the area intent on causing mayhem. Many of those had come to the area to cause trouble after being encouraged to do so by social media posts. Last year, fireworks were being used as weapons as groups were firing them back and forth at each other, at buildings in the area, at passing vehicles and at police. Seven police officers were injured, a shooting and a stabbing were reported, there were two armed robberies at gunpoint and multiple people were arrested as a result of those incidents over the night of May 22 and into the morning of May 23.
McIntyre said that for this year there will be a large and visible police presence in the Woodbine Beach area for all of the nights and days of the Victoria Day long weekend.
“We will have a large number of officers here starting today and continuing right through to the fireworks on Monday night,” he said. “We will have police in cars, on bikes, on horseback and police boats patrolling up and down the beach.”
The Toronto police Public Order Unit will be on standby if needed over the weekend.
As of today, police have set up a staging area in one of the Woodbine Beach parking lots and they will be there the entire weekend. The increased police presence and visibility in the area began on the night of Thursday, May 18.
“We will have a strong presence as a visible deterrent,” said Supt. Kim O’Toole of 55 Division at the press conference.
“The point of the early education and the early presence here in the Beaches is to set the tone that that behaviour (from last year) won’t be tolerated.”
Along with police officers, City of Toronto bylaw officers and Toronto firefighters and EMS personnel will also be present in the area over the weekend.
On Victoria Day, Monday, May 22, the City of Toronto hosts its annual fireworks display at Ashbridges Bay Park. The display will start at 10 p.m. and last for approximately 14 minutes. The city’s fireworks display also draws huge crowds to the area, but in past years has not seen the level of violence and bad behaviour that was seen on the other days of the Victoria Day long weekend.
Police also have a plan to deal with the large crowds and their dispersal after this Monday night’s fireworks display. Last year, on the Sunday night, there were incidents of people shooting fireworks at each other and neighbourhood houses in the area of Woodbine Park which is north of Lake Shore Boulevard and south of Queen Street East.
“We are aware that the flow (of people) goes north and we are working with our partners at the TTC to make sure there are buses…There will be 40 buses staged and ready for when the fireworks end,” said O’Toole.
Police said they are also watching social media for any indications of planned trouble over the weekend, but did not want to get into details of exactly how they are doing that.
“We don’t want to give away all our secrets, but certainly that is something we do look at,” said McIntyre.
Police are strongly reminding those planning on being in the area this weekend that it is illegal to light fireworks, light bonfires or consume alcohol in local parks or on the beaches. Those in violation will have their fireworks and alcohol confiscated and will also be fined. McIntyre said bonfires will be extinguished by firefighters and fines levied on those who started them.
For Monday night’s fireworks display, police are strongly advising that those attending take the TTC as parking is severely limited and there will be significant road closures in the area of Ashbridges Bay Park on May 22.
“Due to large crowds, drivers can expect major traffic delays and limited parking,” police said.
Road closures on Victoria Day will include Coxwell Avenue from Lake Shore Blvd East to Eastern Avenue, and Lake Shore Boulevard East from Leslie Street to Queen Street East.
Additional TTC buses have been added for Victoria Day on the 22A Coxwell and 92A Woodbine routes.
For more on police plans for the Woodbine Beach area this Victoria Day long weekend, please see our earlier story at https://beachmetro.com/2023/05/17/police-to-put-safety-plan-in-place-for-woodbine-beach-area-over-victoria-day-long-weekend/
Did you enjoy this article? Become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter today! For 50 years, we have worked hard to be the eyes and ears in your community, inform you of upcoming events, and let you know what and who is making a difference. We cover the big stories as well as the little things that often matter the most. CLICK HERE to support your Beach Metro Community News!