By Carrie Abel
Halloween downtown was busy as usual this year, as approximately 2,000 people filled the streets dressed in their best costumes. Police officers also wandered the streets, ready to enforce this year’s policy: safe and sober.
There were 110 law enforcement officers patrolling downtown Halloween night, from 10 different agencies. Officers were there to create a safe environment, and make sure everyone was acting appropriately.
In previous years there had been extreme amounts of violence on Halloween night, spurring new security measures. In addition to upping law enforcement, Zach Friend, spokesperson for the police department, said that in an attempt to prevent violence this year, law enforcement contacted known gang affiliates prior to Halloween to warn them of the presence of cops at the event. Friend said they didn’t want it to “feel like a welcome environment for violent people.”
This preparation paid off, as there were no stabbings this year. However, there were many people in handcuffs. Downtown alone, there were 61 arrests, 48 of which were for public intoxication. There was a total of 32 municipal code violations, including littering, open containers, and urinating in public. There were also many calls made on house parties throughout the night.
“Violence itself was down this year,” said Friend. “[There was an] increase in arrests over last year.”
There was one gang-related fight, during which a cop was injured in an attempt to break it up. “In the process of handcuffing one of the known gang members, the gang member impaled the sharp end of the handcuff through the officer’s hand,” read a press release from the Santa Cruz Police Department.
The officer was taken to a hospital, where the handcuff was surgically removed. “Officers arrested Anthony Toste of Scotts Valley for felony assault on a police officer,” the press release stated.
Eric Stamm, a student at UC Santa Cruz and attendee of the downtown Halloween event, was surprised at the number of police officers this year.
“It was really impressive how many cops there were,” Stamm said. “Even compared to last year when I thought they were everywhere, they really were this year.”
The large amount of law enforcement did not negatively affect Stamm’s Halloween experience. “This year I did feel safer, the cops were friendly too,” he said. Stamm, who was dressed as Che Guevara, added that the police let people take pictures with them.
Businesses also benefited from the night’s safe and busy crowd. Cold Stone Creamery was open until 2 a.m., and the night started to get busy at 10 p.m. Rafik Abelian, the owner of Cold Stone, was at the store until closing Halloween night. He noticed a big difference in the type of people that came to Halloween this year, and owed most of that to the presence of the law enforcement. Abelian said he “didn’t see very many drunks” and that “the crowd was much better [this year].”
This was Cold Stone’s third Halloween in Santa Cruz, and the best one yet.
“The first and second [Halloweens] were very chaotic,” Abelian said.
He explained that in previous years there were many thefts out of the store’s cold cases, so this year they put locks on the doors. Abelian said that even though they were prepared for things like theft, he didn’t think it would have happened this year because the crowd was so much better. The customers were friendly, and well-behaved.
Abelian said that now it is time to start getting ready for New Year’s Eve, another big event for downtown Santa Cruz.