Karen Savard left the Boathouse just after 10:30 p.m. on the Saturday night of the Kitchener Blues Festival, walking to her nearby home.
It’s a trip she’s made frequently, and one that, until that night, gave her no cause for concern. The festival hadn’t ended yet, and there were still plenty of people around. Then, Savard was attacked and robbed. She says people were walking by while this happened, and few bothered to help.
Police arrived and took a report. Every day, the Waterloo Regional Police Service respond to hundreds of calls for service. Many of those instances are recorded and posted to the police service website. Occasionally, if there is a serious incident or if the police are seeking assistance from the public, a press release will be sent to media organizations, to quickly disseminate the information.
Held throughout downtown, the blues fest is one of Kitchener’s largest events, drawing both residents and visitors. With thousands of people around, it’s not surprising there would be incidents of criminal activity. What is surprising is that this incident is not one the police chose to publicize.
Victoria Park is not a dark hole in the centre of the city, a place best avoided after dark. It is a thriving area for festivals, picnics, music and a playground. It is surrounded by homes, many of them filled by families with children. It’s a neighbourhood.
A strong police presence during busy festivals is a must. Communication with the public about criminal activity in a very public place at a very public event is also a must, even if there is a possibility it could hurt the reputation of the festival.
But safety in any neighbourhood is the responsibility of the community as a whole — the police, watch groups, and neighbours keeping an eye out for one another. Standing by and staying silent is not an option.