CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Illinois – The University of Illinois Police Department is making preparations to keep students and community members safe so they can enjoy the Halloween weekend without any unwanted scares.
Halloween and the weekend preceding it tends to bring an increase in activity at Campustown bars and off-campus house parties. That in itself is not a problem – but some of the alcohol-fueled activity puts people in danger when they become too intoxicated to care for themselves or when the alcohol contributes to unsafe decisions.
“We want our students to be able to socialize and enjoy their free time, but it has to be done in a way that is respectful of each other and our campus,” said University Police Chief Alice Cary. “We see time and again that when crimes are committed or when people get hurt on weekend nights, alcohol is involved in one way or another.”
Going into Halloween weekend, University Police are working to keep people safe in these ways:
Walking patrols around Campustown bars
University Police assumed primary jurisdiction for the off-campus area known as Campustown on Oct. 1. Since then, University Police have had more of a presence in the area of several liquor establishments along Green Street.
That will continue during the Halloween weekend with police conducting walking patrols along Green Street. Officers will be addressing issues of underage consumption of alcohol and public possession of open alcohol.
The walking patrols are not only in place to enforce liquor laws – the visible, street-level police presence is designed to help proactively identify and deter any other public safety issues, like the potential for violent crime.
“It’s not about drinking tickets. It’s about addressing those unsafe behaviors before they escalate into something even more dangerous,” Cary said. “If you aren’t doing something that draws an officer’s attention, you’re probably not going to get stopped. But officers will stop people who are underage or have open alcohol and are creating unsafe situations for themselves or the people around them. No one likes getting a drinking ticket, but it can prevent bigger issues.”
University Police have already been extra vigilant for drunken driving so far during this school year. Knowing that holidays like Halloween produce larger crowds at liquor establishments, and the colder weather encourages more people to want to drive, officers will be on the lookout for impaired driving.
“This is critical prevention work that saves the lives of our campus community members,” Cary said. “A vehicle with a drunken driver behind the wheel is a deadly weapon that we need to get off the street.”
Campus community members are encouraged to plan ahead if they are going out for the night – designate a driver or make arrangements to use a rideshare service. If you are walking in the campus area at night and need an escort, call SafeWalks.
Monitoring nuisance parties
House or apartment parties are not always an issue — but they can be if they become overcrowded, if people are too intoxicated to take care of themselves, or if partygoers start to create unsafe situations by throwing dangerous materials from balconies or walking out into traffic.
This weekend, police will consistently monitor large parties that show signs of getting out of hand, and officers will be quick to address any dangerous situations they see. Party hosts can be fined if the gathering becomes a public safety issue.
Student Patrol officers help police identify public safety issues involving parties. They carry radios to help them communicate directly with officers if they see something that needs police attention. They are also the first response to noise complaints in the campus area.
If you’re planning on hosting a party, it’s your responsibility to make sure the right safeguards are in place – make sure you know everyone in attendance and that the number of people at the party does not exceed the limits for your lease agreement. It just takes one bad decision by a guest to call police attention to your party.
As always, trained Student Patrol officers are available to walk with students and others who are traveling on campus at night. Walking in groups of three or more is one of the best ways to prevent crime, and SafeWalks ensures that you don’t have to walk alone.
REACH crisis response
Though it’s not directly tied to Halloween weekend, University Police tend to see an increase in mental health-related emergencies around the midpoint of the semester.
The Division of Public Safety’s Response, Evaluation and Crisis Help (REACH) team is a co-responder model that pairs professionals who have a social work background with police officers.
REACH units respond to calls where community members are experiencing a mental health-related emergency. When the scene is determined to be safe for all involved, the police officer steps away and the non-police crisis responder speaks with that person in to come up with a plan to move forward in a way that makes safety a priority.