Police prepare for uptick in crime around Halloween

Pullman, WSU PD expect more fighting, sexual assaults, pranks

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

Local police departments are prepared for Halloween weekend disturbances and are expecting an uptick in crime following last year’s lower-than-normal crime rates.

There is normally an increase in police activity around Halloween every year, including last year, said Jake Opgenorth, Pullman Police Department operations commander. 

“When Halloween falls, especially when it falls on a weekend,” Opgenorth said, “it’s very busy for us just by the sheer amount of people in town.”

Both COVID-19 and crime have a high risk of spreading during Halloween when large groups are gathering, with many of them drinking and not following rules, he said.

Many Halloween-related crimes are not serious enough to constitute an arrest, Opgenorth said.

“When we get calls it could be something as simple as a noise complaint,” Opgenorth said. “We just have to go over and tell them to turn the noise down or move the speakers or something like that.”

However, there have been more serious crimes, such as sexual assaults that often happen at Halloween parties. Pullman PD also has a zero tolerance policy for fighting, Opgenorth said.  

“If we could go the whole weekend without having to investigate one sexual assault, then I would be happy,” he said.

Along with Pullman PD, WSU PD is preparing for increased campus patrols over the weekend.

Steve Hansen, WSU PD assistant chief, said WSU PD has gotten used to people making poor choices that can lead to a police call, and officers are more equipped to deal with it.

“There’s always increased activity,” Hansen said. “It almost lasts an entire week. It’s not always intentional. It’s just poor choices.”

Even though WSU PD had less to deal with last year, Hansen said he does not expect the job will be unmanageable.

There are usually high rates of people going to Halloween parties, which will most likely continue this year, Hansen said. This has had big impacts on campus crime rates and will likely contribute to the spread of COVID-19. 

“You have people who go around to multiple Halloween parties,” he said. “If you’re going to do that, you need to just take responsibility.”

Opgenorth and Hansen said they expect harmless pranks to turn into illegal activities when fueled by intoxication, such as destroying pumpkins or other property.

“Just go out there and think before you make a decision if you’d do the same thing if mom and dad were watching,” Hansen said. “And if the answer is no then don’t do it.”

The biggest concerns mostly lie with people drinking too much at parties, which has happened in the past. Ultimately, Opgenorth and Hansen said they recommend students take responsibility for themselves and stay out of trouble.

“It’s OK to have fun, just do it responsibly,” Opgenorth said. “We’re not the fun police, we just want to make sure you [do it] responsibly.”

Tyler Nielsen, sophomore political science major, said he expects a rise in suspicious activity on campus, although he was not here in person last year.

Nielsen said he thinks many students may not follow the COVID-19 restrictions set in place, which will spread the virus further.

“People aren’t necessarily going to follow the rules,” Nielsen said. “A lot of people don’t do it already, so it’s just probably going to get worse.”

Nielsen said students should take precautions to prevent any possible crimes or COVID-19.

“It might be a good idea to limit the amount of people who go to parties,” Nielsen said. “But that’s not necessarily something I think a lot of people are gonna do.”