Police and city officials say they will be ready for any wild and out of control parties in neighborhoods near campus on Saturday.
In recent years, some London streets near Western University have been flooded with students on the penultimate Saturday in September. In some years, police have been overwhelmed with parties and crowds so large that emergency vehicles have been unable to reach those in need.
Officers will be monitoring the crowd closely, said Const. Sandasha Bough.
“We have operational plans in place for large gatherings,” she said. “There will be a visible police presence in areas adjacent to the university at any gatherings, just to ensure safety.”
The problems with street parties began in 2016 when the university moved the traditional return from September to October. The intention was to reduce street parties by moving the event to later in the year when the weather is colder and students are busier with exams.
However, the students rebelled by continuing to party on the September weekend, giving the celebration their own name: FoCo or “fake homecoming”.
In some years, thousands of revelers – many of them non-Western students – have crowded the streets of FoCo. Broughdale Avenue, a residential street near the university where most houses are rented by students, has become a particular problem. In previous years, the dead end street was clogged with revelers, limiting access for emergency vehicles and creating what police described as a dangerous situation.
At the 2019 FoCo party, police were forced to close Richmond Street as crowds began to fill the traffic lanes. This will be the first year of the past two where COVID-19 restrictions are not in place, opening up the possibility of a return to large street parties.
This year, London police will be joined by officers called up from Halton and Hamilton. Official reunion celebrations have been pushed back to September to prevent rebel FoCo parties.
Residents are worried, calling the counselor
Voters contacted the county. Mariam Hamou, whose neighborhood includes the affected neighborhoods, is worried about potential problems with the street party, she said.
“I’ve had calls, I’ve had emails, they’re wondering what’s going to happen,” she said. “Of course we are prepared for some of the worst things that could happen, but we are hoping and preparing for the best possible result right now.”
A task force formed over the past few years, with representatives from the city, university, student groups and emergency services, has done a lot of good work preparing for the weekend, Hamou said.
“We’re really emphasizing safety this year,” she said.
Police will have the ability to issue fines if the party becomes unsafe, she added.