Kent police, firefighters and paramedics prepare for Halloween

Bethany English

While revelers gear up for the Halloween festivities downtown, city and campus police, firefighters and paramedics also prep for the night by boosting their staffs and bringing in help from neighboring communities.

The extra work also means extra costs for the city of Kent as thousands of students, residents and visitors congregate downtown to celebrate.

Bill Lillich, director of the Public Safety Department, said that according to a memo he received, the 2010 Halloween celebrations cost an additional $45,600 to oversee. A few thousand went to the Portage County Sheriff’s Office and the rest was paid in Kent city overtime.

Staying out of trouble

The Kent Police Department, Kent Fire Department and Kent State University Police Services offer some suggestions to keep you out of court, out of cuffs and out of the hospital.

  • Be respectful of those around you. Families come out to see the costumes and often bring small children. It’s also a great way to avoid getting into a fight with others.
  • Don’t drive downtown because of the increased traffic. If you have to, lock your car and hide any valuables.
  • Don’t carry real weapons or toy props that look too realistic.
  • Wear a costume that doesn’t impair your ability to see.
  • Make sure your cell phone is charged in case you have to make emergency calls.
  • Travel in groups and keep an eye out for each other.
  • Don’t drink in excess. If you become impaired, you’ve made yourself an easy victim for people looking to take advantage of you.
  • If you enter a house party or bar, look for a second way out in case the first entrance you used becomes blocked.
  • Make sure you have a way to get home from downtown or any parties you attend.
  • Remember that all city ordinances still apply, so make sure to follow laws regarding alcohol consumption and open containers.

All 42 Kent city officers work during Halloween along with campus police and law enforcement from the Portage County Sheriff’s Department, Brimfield Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Metro SWAT team. In fact, more than 100 law enforcement officers will be working throughout the city, Lt. Paul Canfield said.

“For a lot of folks, this isn’t their first rodeo, so they have a pretty good idea of what to do,” Canfield said.

Even officers who haven’t experienced a Kent Halloween should be well-prepared from crowd control training conducted by the department or from their police training, Canfield said.

Instead of the usual 10 to 12 arrests during a Saturday night in Kent, officers can make 90 arrests in that single evening, overwhelming the three-cell jail in the basement of the police department. To contain the additional prisoners, police use a bus from PARTA in their parking lot, Canfield said.

Kent’s Central Maintenance Division is also on-hand to handle any basic maintenance issues that arise and to block any roads that need to be barricaded.

Across the parking lot from the Kent Police Department, firefighters and paramedics will also tackle an increase in calls.

Chief Jim Williams said the entire staff — about 30 firefighters — works that evening. With firefighters and paramedics combined, there are about 50 to 55 individuals responding to calls. Most of the calls come in between 7 p.m. amd 4 a.m.

“On Halloween, we obviously have to prepare much like the police department,” Williams said. “Over the last couple of years, we run usually somewhere between 40 to 50 calls.”

The city’s four ambulances, plus three from other communities, are staffed with three paramedics rather than the usual two. The additional paramedic is there to guard the vehicle and the drugs on it from overzealous partiers, Williams said.

When responding to an area with a lot of people or large parties, most often for fights, falls and alcohol poisoning, the paramedics usually wear helmets and coats to protect themselves.


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“We don’t want them to get hit with a bottle that’s being thrown,” Williams said.

For cases of alcohol poisoning on campus, Michquel Penn, community relations officer for Kent State University Police Services, said students shouldn’t hesitate to call for help.

Thanks to the Good Samaritan Provision, found in the Hallways Handbook for residence halls, students can call 911 for someone who is severely impaired without fear of disciplinary consequences.

However, according to the policy, “the involved student(s) agrees to complete an appropriate alcohol evaluation, counseling, and/or treatment.”

Although city officials, campus officers and city law enforcement urge students, residents and visitors to be safe during the festivities, they recognize that most partygoers are out to have an enjoyable evening.

“We want them to have a good time, but do it cautiously,” Lillich said.

Contact Bethany English at [email protected].