Letter to the editor: Staying safe on Halloween

Michael Lewis

I would like to share some recommendations for those planning to attend Kent Halloween festivities on Saturday, Oct. 31. These recommendations are intended to prevent crime and promote safety.

Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but they address real problems experienced in past Halloween celebrations.

Use crosswalks and pay attention. Roadways are open to vehicular traffic, and distracted or impaired drivers or pedestrians are a real concern.

Use the “buddy system” and stay with friends. Being separated from others may make you a more likely target for those with bad intentions.

Stay sober and stay alert. Those who are obviously impaired or who are not attentive to their surroundings may also be more vulnerable. Most of those arrested each year and many victims of crime are intoxicated.

Obey the law. Police will be enforcing all laws, including: open containers, underage drinking, unlawful noise, disorderly conduct and nuisance parties.

Most years, we have simply recommended these basic safety tips, but there are other dangers that lurk during that night.

There are two very different Halloween celebrations that happen in Kent that evening. The downtown crowd is typically good-natured, and people of legal drinking age patronize local restaurants and businesses, while walking around and enjoying some creative costumes.

A few blocks east of downtown is a very different picture. Off-campus student housing is often a draw for a criminal element that comes into Kent with bad intentions. Carloads of adolescents from outside cities come to Kent, looking for opportunities to randomly commit criminal offenses such as disorderly conduct, assault, theft and robbery.

Whether intentional or not, students often provide an environment for random crimes, and allow themselves to become potential victims. Kent Police have made an effort to educate students of the dangers of Halloween in order to limit the potential for criminal activity.

By not hosting parties, students can limit the attraction to these side streets that become overcrowded with vehicular and pedestrian traffic that limit police’s ability to maintain order.

Several law enforcement agencies will be assisting Kent Police on this night, and all police walking teams will be dressed in riot gear. This is never done to intimidate or provoke a response. It is simply a matter of officer protection.

Rocks and bottles hurt, and when a crowd turns violent, police do not have the luxury of time to return to station to get their protective equipment. As taxing as it is to the individual officer to carry this heavy equipment all night long, it is absolutely necessary to perform our jobs safely.

For those who will be coming to Kent that evening, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable experience. However, please use good judgment, remember the safety tips mentioned and listen to the police officers who are working hard to keep you safe.

Michael Lewis is a lieutenant with the Kent Police Department.