Halloween weekend sees lower crime than expected

In what police anticipated would be a busy Halloween weekend, Cal Poly and its surrounding neighborhoods produced relatively low crime rates, according to University Police Department (UPD).

UPD chief Bill Watton said last weekend was slightly more active than most weekends this year, but was still less than the spike Halloween normally brings about in San Luis Obispo crime.

“It’s been kind of consistent with the crime since before the beginning of school this year,” he said. “It seems it’s been a pretty quiet year compared to years in the past.”

UPD made five arrests during the weekend, four for alcohol-related incidents and one for possession of marijuana. Two of the arrests were visitors to the area, including one student from Cal State University, Long Beach.

Watton brought out additional officers for the weekend and said he was pleased they were not as busy as he initially anticipated.

“We staff up for it obviously,” Watton said. “We kind of base what the current year will be based on what we’ve seen in the past, so we try to be prepared for whatever happens.”

Watton attributes what he described as a “successful” Halloween weekend to several factors. One of them, he said, is the messaging put out by UPD and other organizations such as University Housing.

“I think all of the presentations we’ve made, not just us but housing and others make too, for students to take care of each other and to call somebody if they think they need help, and I think that’s working.”

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center also noticed effects of increased messaging this Halloween weekend, but in a very different way. The hospital has seen a consistently high number of alcohol-related admittances to the hospital among college-aged students.

“Since past before the school year started, we’ve been seeing higher alcohol-related incidents than we ever remember,” hospital spokesperson Ron Yukelson said.

Yukelson believes communication to the students has proven to be effective this year, and individuals are more understanding of the need to bring their friends to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He also said people feel comfortable coming to the hospital because it is a “safe zone,” and hospital employees will not call police when an intoxicated individual is brought there.

“We’ve done a lot of education with student body, telling students the most important thing to do is to get them to the hospital,” Yukelson said.

Halloween falling on a Monday also contributed to the number of Halloween incidents being down this year, Watton said. He does hope part of the reason is also that students understand how to party responsibly on the weekends.

“Hopefully, some of that is our kids realize that they don’t need to get that drunk,” he said.

The City of San Luis Obispo also helped to cut down on the number of arrests last weekend, Watton said. It doubled fines for certain violations, including public urination and possessing open containers of alcohol in public places.

“It’s one of those pieces that makes a difference, because people do understand money,” Watton said. “And when it costs them more to do something, I think people do have second thoughts about pushing that limit and ending up with a big fine.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Mitchell Conn said the fines acted as somewhat of a deterrent for students who chose to party over the weekend.

“I think that everyone didn’t want to get fined, so they were keeping it as low-key as possible,” Conn said. “And they were kicking people out as soon as a bunch of people would come in.”

Greek life also was more cautious with partying this weekend, environmental management freshman Rachel DeNoble said.

“I know a lot of frats knew about the double fines, so they were being a little more strict with who they let into their parties,” DeNoble said.

Because of this, people, some in costume, could be seen roaming the streets. Graphic communication freshman Michela Cagliero said there were several individuals on the streets surrounding campus, more checking out the party scene than going to specific houses.

“There were more people walking around the streets,” she said. “Cal Poly and Cuesta students probably.”

Watton said this is a good thing for the community, and falls within the goals of UPD.

“Especially this year, there’s a lot of people out milling around but not the drinking that we typically see,” he said. “A lot of people had costumes, just having a good time. And that’s great, if it doesn’t include alcohol and students getting drunk or being under the influence where they don’t even know what they’re doing.”