For generations, kids have attended outdoor parties. Field, ravine, “bush,” and park parties are nothing new and have been popular activities for Leaside kids looking to let off a little steam. But for this generation of teens, what’s new is the size of these parties and how kids learn about them.
With the proliferation of social media sites, word about parties now spreads like wildfire. While police used to see “large” parties consisting of 50 or so teens, they note that outdoor parties have recently drawn crowds of up to 400. And with massive crowds come incidents uncommon in smaller gatherings.
On September 16th, at a party in Rosedale Park referred to as a “Rosedale Jam,” a crowd of several hundred youths gathered to party-hearty. Eight to 10 kids in their late teens wearing hoodies and bandanas over their faces also gathered – but with very different intentions. As kids came and went, this gang of teens swarmed small groups, demanding phones, cash, and other valuables. One of the partygoers was not only robbed, but also stabbed. According to a police media release, “the boys and girls appear(ed) to be attending…for the sole purpose of carrying out robberies and other forms of criminal activity.” Concerned neighbours who ventured into the park also reported numerous teens passed out from drug or alcohol overdoses.
We spoke to a number of Leaside teens, who know all about these parties and asked that we not use their names.
Not all are Rosedale Jams
One Leaside student commented that while the term “Rosedale Jam” has been commonly used in the media, teens “refer to park parties according to where they are being held” (i.e. a Forest Hill Jam or a Leaside Jam).
Another Leasider who attended the September 16th Rosedale Jam said they had attended several Leaside Jams with some 50 kids in attendance. The student indicated that the Rosedale party was “like a zoo.” While leaving the party, their group was pursued by a gang of older teens.
Several students acknowledged that even though they have been to such parties in the past, their friend groups now avoid not just jams, but even venturing into parks after dark.
In Leaside, parties have occurred in parks as well as at the high school field for many years. While there haven’t been reported stabbings at Leaside Jams, there have been incidents of robbery, and alcohol and drug use. As the use of social media to publicize unmonitored Leaside events continues, the potential for more serious incidents to occur is definitely of growing concern.
Like parents in neighbouring communities, Leasiders are becoming more educated and empowered to prevent park parties from becoming unruly, seeking tips to help guide their teens, and learning what tools teens should have for partying safely.
The police are well aware of this growing problem. I spoke with Staff Sergeant James Hogan, PC Alex Li, and PC Tim Somers, all officers from 53 Division, about what Leasiders can do to be more aware:
Tips for the community
• If you see a party forming, make your presence known. “There is nothing more uncool at a teen party than a group of adults,” they said.
• Use the power of community, share any rumours and news of large gatherings.
• Call 911 immediately at the first hint of unruliness.
Tips for parents
• Establish where your kids are going and whom they’re going with.
• If you’re dropping your child at a party that appears out of control, don’t leave them there.
• Check in with your teen and ensure you have the cell number of at least one of their friends.
• Speak with your kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
Tips for teens
• Keep your head up in crowds, be aware of your surroundings.
• Travel in large groups.
• Don’t travel with expensive items – that being said, there is no property in the world that is worth more than your life.
• Keep in regular touch with friends and parents.
• Make sure your phone is charged.
• Don’t engage, walk away.
• Don’t be lured to parties advertised with promises of “things you’ll appreciate.”
• If you witness any criminal incidents, you can provide tips to the police anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers (416-222-8477 or 222tips.com).
• Call 911 immediately if you encounter criminal activity or when someone is unconscious or injured.
• Keep an eye on your drinks and do not accept drinks from strangers.
• Walk in well lit, well-travelled areas.