Video: Halloween event costs city tens of thousands of dollars

Megan Wilkinson


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Video by Mike Drake.

While many in Kent celebrated Saturday, hundreds of city employees from Kent and other nearby cities worked overtime to keep partygoers safe from fights, alcohol poisoning and other risks. Like other annual celebrations, city workers said they expect and prepare beforehand for the crowds on Halloween.

The city spends at least $37,000 to pay for staffing city police, firefighters and maintenance overtime costs, Kent police Lt. Jim Prusha wrote in an email.

“This costs the city a lot of money,” said Kent Fire Department Chief Dave Manthey. “When you bring in the entire (fire) department when two-thirds of the men are supposed to be off duty, it gets pricey.”

The following is a timeline of what police, firefighters and central maintenance do for Kent Halloween each year:

Months in Advance

Several months prior to Kent Halloween, Kent police Capt. Paul Canfield said he is already calling other local police agencies to make a roster of more than 100 police officers to help patrol Kent Halloween. He said he usually contacts the Brimfield Police Department, Kent State Police Department, Portage County Sheriff’s Office and the Metro SWAT team to see if those agencies can send staff for the night.

“I touch base with other agencies to make sure we have everything we’re going to need: supplies and personnel,” Canfield said.

Canfield said all of the Kent police are required to work that night.

In addition to finding help from other police agencies, Canfield said he seeks help from the city’s Central Maintenance department to provide barricades and support. John Osborne, utilities manager with Central Maintenance, said his department calls in at least eight employees to work overtime for Kent Halloween. He said his staff is responsible for bringing in barricades to downtown and cleaning up after the partying subsides.

“It’s dangerous downtown that night,” Osborne said. “In years past, we’ve seen cars couldn’t get around down there, so we block off the public from the streets and have crews standing by to block off streets, if police view it necessary.”

The fire department also plans ahead when it comes to staffing and getting supplies for Kent Halloween. Kent has only three working ambulances and a total of 34 people on staff, which Manthey said is not enough manpower or equipment to respond to the 50 to 60 fire- and rescue-related calls during Kent Halloween.

“Our normal call volume for a 24-hour shift is 11 calls a day, but sometimes up to 20,” Manthey said. “A day like Halloween, we run 50 to 60 calls. The problem is when they all come in from midnight to 3 a.m.”

Fire department Capt. John Tosko said the department seeks out help from others on Halloween, including the following: Rootstown, Suffield, Mantua, Ravenna Township, Ravenna city and Stow. With the help of these departments, Manthey said Kent has about 10 ambulances and a total of 65 individuals ready to respond to calls that night.

5 to 9 p.m.

Most police, firefighters and Central Maintenance workers rest and take it easy before starting their shifts so they can be efficient and awake throughout the night.

“You try to take a nap before you come in, but any night officer deals with this,” Prusha said. “But it’s adrenaline that will keep us up most of the night.”

Prusha said police and Metro SWAT team members gathered for roll call at 8 p.m. in the training room of the police department on South Water Street. He said 100 officers had pizza and refreshments as they listened to Capt. Canfield for the evening’s plans.

“There’s enough officers there that we don’t all fit in there, and people are standing in the hallway trying to hear,” Prusha said.

Canfield said he goes over what the different walking teams and staff members will be doing throughout the night, along with introducing team leaders.

Prusha said each of the walking teams is assigned a different area of town to patrol. He said the bulk of the walking teams were assigned to the following areas of town: downtown, East Main Street, Lincoln Street, Willow Street, University Avenue, College Avenue and Summit Street.

“We always guess where we’re needed in advance,” Prusha said. “If something happens further out in town that night, we’ll move to that area, though.”

As police go over the evening’s plans, the Kent Fire Department staff is also prepping up for the night. Manthey said he welcomes the out-of-town firefighters, educating them on Kent and what they will be doing that evening; others at the station are making sure the fire trucks and ambulances are fueled up and gear is ready.

“Aside from that, we are just at the ready for whatever comes our way,” Manthey said.

9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

As hordes of zombies, pirates and pop stars began to walk downtown and to other residential parties, there was an increase in calls for police and firefighters to take care of.

Police dodged beer bottles thrown at them as they made their arrests. Canfield said police prioritized arrests, mostly looking for assaults, disorderly conduct, fights and excessive underage drinking.

Prusha said he estimates that police only catch a small percentage of crimes on Kent Halloween, and he said if one includes underage drinking as a crime, he lowered his estimate to 1 percent.

“There’s litter everywhere, a lot of scattered fights,” Prusha said. “A lot of people get away, and a lot of times, we’ll get calls about fights but arrive when the fight’s over.”

Kent Police Sgt. Nick Shearer said there was a total of 38 arrests Saturday during Kent Halloween. He said this number was a little smaller than the average number of arrests for Halloween but much larger than the average party night.

Prusha said because police expected a lot of arrests, they placed a PARTA bus in the police department parking lot with a Porta-Potty next to it to help circulate prisoners through the city’s small, three-cell jail. He said prisoners would wait on the bus until there was enough room to put them in a cell.

Canfield said when the prisoner numbers got too high to process them all in Kent, arrested individuals were sent to the Portage County Jail.

Along with high numbers of arrests, there are high numbers of injuries and emergency calls to the fire department. The fire department reported 35 calls between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Saturday night.

Manthey said the dozens of firefighters focus on helping people suffering from alcohol poisoning and fight injuries throughout Kent Halloween.

While some officers and firemen said they like the extra work on Kent Halloween, Canfield said he calls the evening a challenge.

“When I was a line-level officer years ago, the challenging part was staying on my feet for hours, dealing with the elements,” he said. “When I was a supervisor, it was keeping track of my team and making sure anyone we arrested was accounted for and making sure paperwork was done. Now, running the show, it’s keeping track of all the moving parts.”

The Aftermath

As the parties died down and costumed people filter out of the bars downtown around 3-4 a.m., police and firefighters said they began sending additional help home because the number of arrests and calls was dwindling.

With that came the more tedious part of the evening for police, firefighters and Central Maintenance workers — paperwork and cleanup for.

Osborne said Central Maintenance brought out two street sweepers to downtown to clean up litter and debris around 2 or 3 a.m.

“Downtown is often trashed, and when it’s really bad, we always clean up the mess,” he said.

While the night is taxing, Prusha said he generally enjoys the evening. He said he loves to keep the city safe that night.

“I didn’t become a police officer so I could sit at a desk,” Prusha said. “I wanted to go and catch bad guys dressed up like Peter Pan, and you just can’t do that any other night.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].