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Beaches residents fed up with rowdy teens leaving jazz festival

Last Updated Jul 29, 2017 at 7:56 am EDT

Residents in a Beaches neighbourhood are fuming over what happens to their residential street after the Beaches International Jazz Festival shuts down, including a fight that broke out on the lawn of a home early Thursday morning that sent one man to hospital with minor injuries.

Area resident Fiona Birch says she witnessed five fights on Hammersmith Avenue, where dozens of teens also made their way onto the porch of a home.

“They were just swarming the cars,” she explains. “People were running around on their balconies, just trying to protect their property.”

Neighbours on Hammersmith say this is typical during the festival’s run. Once the event is over at 11 p.m., they say police have been ushering thousands of teens who have been congregating at the Macs convenience store across the street on to the residential street. The teens then make their way to the park and beach at the end of the road, which is closed to the public after midnight.

“This started about five years ago,” said Matt Marshall, who’s been living on the street for 68 years. “When they come, they’re loud, noisy, some are drunk, some think it’s fun to push into your gardens, and they urinate everywhere.”

Toronto Police say they received a call for a fight after midnight, where one man was also taken to hospital with minor injuries. Officers on bikes and cruisers were already in the area to assist.

“We have a plan in place to deal with crowd control type of events, there are a lot of people that attend and generally we have very few problems,” Const. Craig Brister tells CityNews.

The annual festival is in its 29th year, and takes over the Beaches between July 7th and July 30th in different locations. On Thursday, Queen St. E. was closed off for StreetFest, where festival organizers say they had over 100 police officers on site.

Police say once the event wraps up at 11, their primary goal is to clear the streets for pedestrians and motorists.

“Our priority is to make sure when we have the mass exodus of people leaving the event, that they’re able to get to transit, vehicles, to be able to walk home in a safe and efficient manner,” Brister said. “That’s why there’s additional officers that are tasked to deal specifically with these types of events.”

The Jazz festival says they don’t serve alcoholic beverages at the event, but people will bring their own liquor. A spokesperson also says they work closely with police and city officials.

“Before we open the street we make sure it’s clear, there’s no incidents and it’s safe to do so,” said Executive Director Lido Chilelli. “We do not open the street until it’s 100 percent clear.”

Residents on Hammersmith aren’t putting the blame on the festival, but say they do want to have more officers placed on the street.

“This is repeating itself over and over again, and surely we should be better prepared for this,” Birch said.

Marshall says for years he’s been asking why traffic is being ushered onto this specific street, but he hasn’t received an answer yet.

“They shouldn’t be coming into the residential neighbourhood,” he said. “Especially Thursday night when people are getting ready to go to work the next day, and they’re up yelling at 1:30 a.m.”

This weekend, several neighbours say they are bracing for the worst. Many of them are planning to be out on their front porch all night to keep an eye on their homes. Some, like Kevin Forrest, are also using garbage bins and vehicles to block their alleyways from any unwanted guests.

“We park the truck in so they can’t get back down the back,” he said. “Two or three years ago, I pulled six guys out of my backyard, trying to relieve themselves in the backyard.”

Forrest says he’s been seeing fights on his street for years, and on one occasion he’s also intervened.

“When there are enough police to keep them channeled and keep them orderly, it works well,” Forrest explains.