Nothing scary about this Halloween

This year’s Halloween was pretty much like any typical weekend night—except for the throngs of police officers occupying Chico’s street corners.

It marked the third year that Chico police, under the direction of the City Council, stepped up efforts “to bring Halloween back to being a safe, local event.” And, depending on whom you asked, the mission was a success.

More than 250 officers from Butte and Glenn Counties and as far south as Modesto volunteered to assist with the effort to reduce crowd size and violence from the high levels of years past.

Chico police initially proposed that it would take four years to control the “non-event,” but in a press release they stated that the goal had been reached this year.

Chico police Lt. Mike Weber said the success of the campaign was made possible by police, volunteers and local churches that donated space and food for officers.

With the exception of a few isolated incidents, the 1,000-or-so Halloween revelers were relatively quiet.

In comparison, Santa Barbara, another city known for its Halloween festivities and a place many Chico students chose to go, saw more than 300 weekend arrests, with crowds reaching 20,000 in the Isla Vista student neighborhood on Saturday, according to an article in UC Santa Barbara’s newspaper, The Daily Nexus. The article also said there was an average of 150 officers on duty each night.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey, making his rounds in the area of Fifth and Ivy streets Sunday night, said options would soon be discussed for future action in Chico.

“It’s less [people] than on a typical weekend night,” Ramsey said. “Every time we have a calmer year, we’ll need less police.”

Weber said there were 133 arrests over the weekend, a majority of those for public intoxication. Halloween arrests totaled 47, down from 112 last year, and no stabbings or sexual assaults were reported.

There was lingering disappointment among those who remember the tradition of Halloween in Chico.

Shad Butler stood in front of Duffy’s Tavern, which had closed its doors at 10 p.m., and said his parents used to come downtown to check out the costumes.

“I’m glad they stopped the violence, I really am,” Butler said. “It’s just too bad everything else had to go.”

While police stepped up their efforts over the last three years, others have been making efforts to better understand the changes in attitudes and behaviors regarding the holiday.

Will Clark, a criminal-justice major, was one of several students conducting surveys Sunday night for a Halloween research project headed by Chico State University political science professors Lori Beth Way, Matthew Thomas and Rick Ruddell.

Clark stood on the corner of Fifth and Salem streets and asked participants about their perception of safety, their feelings toward the police and whether Chico’s $17,000 ad campaign deterred people from going downtown.

Clark said police are making sure people are safe, but that results of his survey showed the ads weren’t very effective.

The study also asked questions about drinking behaviors and motivations for participating in Halloween events.

Over the last three years, volunteers have conducted nearly 1,200 interviews in the downtown area and at alternative events at Chico State.

The study showed that, despite the success of the city’s efforts, some students and community members want to return to the revelries of the past and that multiple stakeholders should be involved in decisions regarding the event.

Results were published in the "Campus Law Enforcement Journal," while results for this year’s survey will be released in the coming weeks.