Police up the ante for holiday

Doug Gulasy

Eight times more officers on duty

The Kent City Police has increased its force for tomorrow night in anticipation of large

crowds downtown for Kent’s Halloween celebration.

Kent Police Lt. Jayme Cole said about 80 police officers will be stationed throughout the city tomorrow night, representing a major increase from the nine or 10 who are on duty on a normal Saturday night.

The number includes all 42 officers of the Kent City Police Department, as well as officers from local agencies such as the

Portage County Sheriff’s Office, the Brimfield Township Police Department and the Metro SWAT team.

The police will be stationed downtown and in other areas where people tend to congregate during the Halloween festivities.

“We go where the crowds are,” said Cole, who added that the police expect tomorrow’s crowd to number in the thousands.

William Lillich, Kent public safety director, said the city will pay approximately $35,000 in overtime for the

extra Kent police officers, as well as additional service workers. The city does

not pay for the officers from other departments.

Lillich said the number of officers is about the same as in previous years, and the police have contingency plans in case of an incident similar to April’s College Fest riots.

“There’s a review of tactics and results after every major event,” Lillich said.

“And sometimes, strategies do change.”

The last time a major incident occurred on Halloween was in 2007, when police fired pepper spray pellets on University Drive in response to bottles being thrown. The same year, witnesses accused police of firing pepper spray or Mace into the Sigma Nu Annex

on University Drive.

The FBI looked into the latter incident and determined there wasn’t enough evidence for a

further federal investigation. In 2006, Dana Lim spent more than a month in the hospital

after being pushed into the path of a tow truck. Delta Upsilon member Nicholas Zajac pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in

March 2007 and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Cole said many students believe drinking is more tolerable on Halloween, which can

lead to major safety concerns. “I don’t think that’s the right attitude to have,” Cole said. “If a guy or girl that’s intoxicated steps in front of a car and gets hit, gets in a fight that they otherwise

wouldn’t have or gets robbed, those are major problems.”

But Kent resident Daniel Szakal, who lives on Linden Road, said police can be part of

the problem as well.

“If they make their presence known, it’s one thing,” he said. “But if you put on your riot

gear and march down the street waving your batons, then you’re enticing something to happen.”

Szakal said he expects anywhere between 50 and 100 students, from Kent State and elsewhere, to be in his neighborhood

tomorrow night.

He said while the students who live on his street have been “pretty good” this year,

Halloween often brings a different story, with too much noise and trash that gets

thrown into neighbors’ yards. Szakal said he hopes students in residential areas will

just respect neighbors who aren’t participating in the celebration.

“It’s OK to have fun,” he said. “It’s not all right to infringe on others’ rights and


Lillich said his major advice for tomorrow is that if students do drink, they should do so responsibly.

“They need to be sensible so they can be safe,” he said. “Safe from stumbling into

the path of a vehicle, or safe from being victimized by one of the few people that may be in the crowd that are inclined to harmful acts.

“We don’t typically find people like that in the Halloween crowd, and that’s fortunate, but there are always a few in a crowd that will function that way.”

Contact public affairs reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].