Kent authorities plan for Halloween

This infographic was created on using data provided by the Kent State Department of Residence Services. 

Kent’s annual Halloween party is quickly approaching, and authorities from the city and university are making plans to keep residents safe at the event that typically draws more than 20,000 people.

Kent Police Department will be fully staffed the night of Oct. 27 with additional help from Metro SWAT, an organization that includes officers from Kent, Kent State, Brimfield, Stow and Aurora. Kent State University police will be on overtime for the most part, overlapping afternoon and midnight shifts to stay at full strength.

“We work with the city police department in a lot of the areas that are more prone to partygoers,” said Tricia Knoles, the community resource officer for the university police. “The officers have a joint jurisdiction so they can respond off campus with the city police as mutual aid.”

City police and university police work closely throughout the year, training together with the same tactics. Their relationship only gets closer around

the Halloween festivities.

“They are there when we need them and vice versa,” said Lt. Mike Lewis of the city police department.

Most of the equipment the city uses on Halloween — including loudspeakers for crowd control — has been purchased and compiled over the years, but some is borrowed from other departments. They receive help from the Portage County Sheriff’s Department and Portage County Office of Homeland Security, whic have supplied a couple extra vehicles in the past.

Lewis said the department’s new jail has plenty of capacity for the number of arrests seen on Halloween. Kent police have reported up to 70 arrests in some years, but in recent years arrests have dwindled into the 20s.

“Hopefully, this year will be the same,” Knoles said, calling the past couple Kent Halloweens “quieter than usual.” Most of the arrests are drinking violations, from public intoxication to underage drinking, followed by disorderly conduct, assaults and theft.

Lewis said the majority of arrests on past Halloween weekends have been of outsiders.

“It doesn’t always paint an accurate picture when we say we had 60 arrests during Kent and Kent State festivities because so many of those arrests come

from people visiting the city and not Kent State students,” Lewis said.

He said many of these visitors come to town looking to commit crime and

create trouble.

“They walk around in packs,” Lewis said. “They come by the carload, they park and walk around, floating from party to party looking to cause trouble. They come here with bad intentions and commit crimes almost with anonymity. Nobody knows who they are.”

He said female students have reported men walking in groups, saying offensive remarks or attempting to touch them.

Lewis said Kent police don’t enforce policy more strictly during the Halloween celebrations, but the high number of arrests are because of blatant illegal activity.

“The people we arrested essentially broke into jail,” he said. “It’s not like we spend Halloween night hiding in bushes and trying to jump out and grab anyone who is in possession of alcohol. They come to us.”

With the higher amount of crime on Halloween night, city and university

police encourage students to stay safe.

“I tell the students, if you choose to go out on Halloween, go out and enjoy Kent State Halloween, but leave by 10 p.m.,” Knoles said. “It’s after that time the other people start coming in from other towns just to create trouble or prey on students who may be intoxicated at that time.”

Knoles tells students to keep close with friends and take care of each other. Lewis encourages having a friend who is staying sober that night to help keep

other friends safe and responsible.

If students find themselves intoxicated or unsafe, they can contact university police. There are also student security aides available through the escort program between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. They serve as the primary on-campus contact if a student feels unsafe walking to their residence hall. An escort can be reached by calling 330-672-7004.

“Don’t be afraid to use the escort service that we provide,” said Nico Galizio, the coordinator of safety and security for residential communities. “Don’t be afraid to call us if you’re somewhere on campus and you don’t feel safe.”

There are double the security aides working in student escort services on Halloween compared to any other night, and slightly more students typically use the service. Residence hall policies, much like those of the city and university police, mostly remain the same.

“The only really big change that we make in the residence halls is that we only allow access to the residence halls through one entrance,” Galizio said. “We do this to keep people who do not attend Kent State out of the residence halls.”

Residents are permitted to register two guests for the night of Oct. 27, and they must escort their guests at all times. Galizio said the policy has been very effective in past years, with no significant problems of nonstudents entering the buildings.

Another service available to students involves cases of sexual assault.

If there is a sexual assault, students who feel uncomfortable contacting the police department can contact the Sexual & Relationship Violence Support Services operated out of the Women’s Center. But the student should still have no fear calling the police. They do not have to press charges because the police are involved. SRVSS can be reached at 330-672-8016. Other related services are found in their online brochure.

For emergencies, Lewis encourages always calling 911. Some students, however, may be afraid of the consequences of looking for help but also getting caught for doing something they were not supposed to.

“If a student is with someone and they think that person has alcohol poisoning or they are passed out and not coming to, even if they are under 21, they can contact university police,” Knoles said. The Good Samaritan Provision helps keep students safe, allowing people to get help for others without fear of disciplinary consequences, even if they are drinking underage themselves.

“Regardless, it’s more important that a person gets medical attention than if they were to get a $200 fine for underage drinking,” Knoles said. “We try to look at the big picture — that this person getting medical attention is a lot more important than writing the (citation).”

City police do not have a Good Samaritan Provision, but they still encourage calling police regardless of circumstances.

They also encourage students who are hosting big celebrations to register their parties with the Kent Police Department. They must do so 72 hours in advance. Two residents who will be at the party for the duration will come down to the department, complete a registration form, and present their IDs. This way, if there is a noise complaint, city police will give the residents a warning call. They will have 20 minutes to either quiet down or shut down the party. After the 20 minutes is up and nothing changes, Kent police will have to respond. If there is a fight or property damage, the police will respond immediately.

Noise complaints, at any time of day, are certainly not uncommon in Kent, Lewis said. He said Kent’s noise policy is stricter than many cities’, but it is necessary in neighborhoods where students and community members live side-by-side. The policy gets strictest after 9 p.m., but noise can be deemed unreasonable any time of day.

Lewis said city police have gotten a lot of cooperation from the Kent State student body in the past two years.

“Arrests have gone down considerably,” Lewis said. “Property damage has gone down considerably. I am thankful to the cooperation of the student body and hope that we get that again.”

Residence Services, however, is anticipating more action this Halloween than what they’ve seen the past couple years. Brian Hellwig, the assistant director of Residential Communities, said he’s seen more policy violations in the residence halls this year compared to past years. He expects this trend to continue Halloween night.

Lewis said he would prefer not to see a large event for Halloween here, but he acknowledged it will happen regardless.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Lewis said. “We’re hoping for the best, but we’re prepared for the worst.”

Dylan Reynolds is an assigning editor. Contact him at [email protected]

Kathryn Monsewicz is a contributor. Contact her at [email protected]