What should we expect this year?

Cody Francis

Police to add patrolmen on foot

Four fires and 53 arrests highlighted the 2009 event.

“KENT STATE MUTHA F—-S! I cant wait to fix my drunken gaze upon a flaming piece of furniture, then run away from the cops”

“I might have an old chair to burn! Watch out for pepper balls!”

“drinking at 10 am and burning shit? im in”

“I got shot at last year.??LETS GO AGAIN”

“I am predicting May 4th…VOL 2.”

These are some comments on the wall of the Facebook event “CollegeFest.” They are not the only types of comments on the event that as of 6 p.m. Thursday had 6,058 confirmed guests, but they are the types that Lt. Jayme Cole of the Kent City Police Department is worried most about.

Cole said it is not the goal of the Kent police to break up the annual College Avenue block party that is set to take place tomorrow, but they will be there to stop those “one or two idiots from ruining it for everybody else.”

Troublemakers aside, Cole said as long as the members keep it to a “lawful and peaceful gathering,” the day should go smoothly.

“Lawful and peaceful” aren’t exactly words that would describe last April’s College Fest. Four fires and 53 arrests highlighted the 2009 event, but Cole said the Kent police are not expecting a repeat.

“We certainly intend to, in addition to normal patrols and responsibilities, intend to have the area patrolled by officers on foot,” he said. “We’re optimistic that nobody wants a repeat of the destructive behaviors that went on last year. We’re approaching it from a standpoint that everybody is going there to have a good, but peaceful time.”

The Kent Police Department will have all of its 42 officers working on Saturday, Cole said. Officers from the Kent State and Brimfield police as well as the Portage County Sheriff’s Office will be on call, along with other area police. Cole said a SWAT team is not necessarily “on call,” but it will be aware the event is taking place.

Mike Schaffer, junior accounting major and administrator on the “CollegeFest” Facebook event, said he thinks the increased police presence might be enough to anger the crowd.

“(The police) are just so strict the whole year, they’re just a little crazy,” Schaffer said. “When there’s drinking, they’re always around. They’re obviously going to be arresting people. If it was just underage kids walking down the street with an open beer, I don’t think that would do anything. But I think that if they just went out of control and started to go into and break up the crowds, I think that would backfire.”

Cole said the police are not out looking to anger the partygoers — they are there to protect them and the property of others.

“If the mere presence of a police officer is enough to incite an individual to commit criminal acts, they’re not a good person and they don’t come from a good place and they need to be removed from the crowd at the earliest possible opportunity,” Cole said. “It’s never been our experience that the mere presence of the cops is a factor for somebody to commit a crime. Usually, it’s the opposite.

“I just don’t buy that as a legitimate argument that the cops being there is going to incite the crowd to do something. People that start fights and commit assault and steal and start fires — there’s no excuse for that, whether the police are there or not.”

Schaffer, a resident of College Avenue, said while he thinks the police should be more relaxed this year, he agrees that all it takes is one or two people to start a conflict. He and other administrators of the Facebook event have even started to delete comments about starting trouble tomorrow. They even leave comments on other people’s wall posts about not saying or doing anything that will cause trouble.

“I try to tell them on the wall that writing that stuff’s not a good idea,” Schaffer said. “I think that’s kind of immature, and stuff like that will just get the party shut down early.”

As far as shutting down the party goes, Cole said there is no plan by the police to end the party at a certain time.

“There’s no recipe for how that call gets made,” he said. “The minute any gathering becomes an unsafe condition or an unsafe place for the people that are there, then it’s time for the police to break it up. We want to accommodate and allow people to have lawful, peaceful gatherings as long as those gatherings remain that way. There’s no desire or mission on anybody’s part to just break up a party for the mere fact that it’s a party.”

Schaffer, who had his garage burned to the ground the first weekend after he moved in last fall, said even though there will be a party at his house, they will be on the lookout to stop people who may cause trouble.

“I think if a fight breaks out or stuff gets set on fire, we’re going to have our hose ready to put it out,” he said. “We’re not trying to cause trouble. We’re just trying to play it cool and maybe just be on (the police’s) side so they just don’t really mess with us.”

Not just wanting to avoid a repeat of last year, Schaffer has another significant Kent State event he’d like to avoid, which is the opposite feeling of one of the Facebook comments.

“Hopefully we don’t have a May 4th on Saturday.”

Contact public affairs reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].