The Madison Police Department announced at a press conference Thursday night it will reduce the number of state troopers patrolling the streets during Freakfest, even though a larger crowd is expected.
The police force will have two less platoons, which generally consist of 20 to 40 officers, on duty compared to last year when law enforcement presence at the Halloween celebration was at an all-time high, said MPD Capt. Mary Schauf.
Schauf credits this year’s reduction of state trooper numbers to an effort to make police distribution more efficient, placing police where and when they are needed most.
“We’re trying to maximize resources that we do have,” Schauf added.
According to Schauf, 45 of the officers on patrol will solely manage traffic in downtown Madison.
The number of arrests during Halloween has been decreasing since 2005, when arrests peaked. Last year, less than 200 people were arrested, half as many as the year before, Schauf said, continuing on to attribute the significant drop in Halloween arrest rates to last year’s newly adopted admission practices.
Although police hope that this downward trend continues, they are prepared to handle any individuals who choose to participate in disruptive behavior, Schauf said.
“If anybody is unruly, they can expect to be escorted out,” Schauf said, reiterating that regardless of whether an individual is arrested, they will not be allowed back onto State Street, even if they have a ticket. “Once you’re gone, you’re gone.”
In the event that a friend is arrested, police plan to distribute cards that say where the apprehended individual can be picked up after being processed by law enforcement officials.
Most people who get arrested are released shortly after. Both Schauf and Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, advised that if an individual is arrested, the best thing to do is to have the individual call a friend upon release.
The majority of individuals who have been arrested in the past were college students, but not all of them were UW-Madison students.
“There’s really a regional draw with this event,” she said, adding that typically 65 percent of the people who are arrested are students at other UW System and Big Ten schools.
“A relatively low amount of arrested students are UW-Madison students,” Schauf said.
She explained that less UW students are arrested because they are more familiar with the code of conduct that is expected during Halloween.
Verveer noted that most problems with rowdy behavior in the past have occurred when police start clearing out State Street. No traffic is allowed back onto the street until after it has been cleaned.
“One of the only complaints that I’ve been getting is that people can’t get back to their homes [on State Street] when the police are clearing the streets,” Verveer added, discussing last year in particular.
“People who are up by the Capitol and live in Statesider and Towers may have to walk all the way around down Henry — they can’t go back down State Street at end of night,” Verveer said.
Schauf emphasized that the main concern of the MDP is allowing partygoers to have fun while keeping them safe.
“Our goal is that everybody has a nice time and goes home safely,” Schauf said. “If people want to come to this event, they are expecting to have a great time. Getting arrested is not a great time to me.”