No Booze, More Police At Rondeau

( file photo by Matt Weverink)

Teens won’t be the only ones flocking to Rondeau Park this weekend.

Campers who are heading there for the holiday stretch can expect to see a significant boost in police presenceĀ as well.

OPP Constable Jay Denorer says they’ll have the Mobile Command Unit on site along with several teams of officers who will be working with park wardens to patrol the area.

A key focus for the officers will be enforcing the alcohol ban and getting rid of any unauthorized guests.

“We have five teams of two officers working throughout the weekend,” says Denorer. “We’re just making sure that the youth who are out are not engaging in activities they shouldn’t be engaged in.”

Denorer says this year they’ll also have officers manning the gates to the park 24-hours a day throughout the weekend, so that they can closely monitor drivers — and passengers — who may be leaving the park late at night or early in the morning.

That extra precaution was prompted by a crash last year near Charing Cross that claimed the life of an 18-year-old passenger. Police say the vehicle was loaded with four young people who were camping at Rondeau and decided to leave in the early morning hours.

The 17-year-old boy driving the vehicle was arrested and charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide a breath sample.

In addition to manning the gate, police will also be issuing a new style of wristbands that are “tamper-proof.”

“You’re not able to take them off unless you cut them off — and they’re glittery on one side and say Rondeau Provincial Park,” says Denorer adding officers will be writing campsite numbers on the wristbands as soon as campers arrive. “If at any time you take it off, you can be asked to leave.”

Denorer says they’re handing out the wristbands in an effort to limit the number of people who are coming into the park, and to make sure people who aren’t registered campers at Rondeau aren’t staying past 10pm.

This year, police also took a very pro-active approach, letting local teens know well in advance that officers will be keeping a close eye on their behaviour.

According to Denorer, the local OPP detachment has been working with Chatham-Kent police, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the United Way for about six months preparing for this weekend.

“We had posters made up to list out our expectations for the weekend and as the kids show up at Rondeau on Friday, they’re going to be handed a postcard with the same information,” says Denorer. “We’re hoping that way no one can come out and say, ‘I didn’t know I’m not allowed to do this or that.'”

Denorer says he understands that for many teens, camping at the park over the May long weekend is considered a “rite of passage,” but he’s reminding campers that there are still laws in place and that officers will be out enforcing them.