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Cat Counsel: How to have a safe and civil Halloween

With the leaves changing colors, sweaters being pulled out of storage and the obligatory use of pumpkin in every recipe it can only mean one thing: fall in Athens.
And if there’s one thing that Athenians associate the most with fall, with either trepidation or excitement, it’s Halloween.

Although the event is inarguably the largest celebration commonly associated with the University, the Court Street Halloween event is not an Ohio University endorsed event.

Even if most students’ festivities no longer include trick-or-treating, after two years at Ohio University I’ve learned there are still some safety tips that should be kept in mind when celebrating a safe and reasonable Halloween. 

All typical weekend rules apply to Halloween: don’t walk alone, carry your cell phone, don’t leave any beverage unsupervised and don’t walk away (or let a friend walk away) with a stranger. However, the mischievous holiday can sometimes get the best of others and therefore some extra precautions are best advised.

One of the most notable and obvious things to consider is the population increase for the weekend. With already more than 17,000 undergraduate students on campus, one of the main safety concerns during Allhallows Eve weekend is the amount of people traveling to Athens.

Andrew Powers, chief of police at Ohio University Police Department (OUPD), explained that the actually number of out-of-town visitors is hard to count.

“I’ve heard from 10,000 to 30,000 people,” he stated. “I’d say that the population doubles.”

The increased population of Athens isn’t just frustrating for people trying to find parking spots or a table at a restaurant uptown, but proves to cause a larger issue: loss of cell phone reception.

It does not matter what service provider you use, going uptown on Halloween weekend is guaranteed to have spotty reception. This makes it near impossible to call a friend to tell them that you’ll meet them outside Big Mama’s, or that your costume broke so you have to run home to change quickly. It also causes larger issues for if there’s an emergency or a friend got separated from the group.

Thankfully, along with the number of extra visitors on campus come extra reinforcements. Powers explained that OUPD works with multiple agencies throughout southeast Ohio to help police the city.

However, the best plan of action is to simply create one. Have a small group of friends to stay with all night, and then plan to meet others at a specific location at a certain time before you go out for the night.

Although upperclassmen may try to share advice with younger students, some helpful hints are more myth than fact.

My freshman year, two of the main pieces of advice I heard from older students were, “Don’t trip in front of the police, they’ll arrest you,” and “Don’t pet their horses, they’ll arrest you.”

Those two sentiments stuck with me for my first two Halloweens. However, after tripping over the curb when crossing the street directly in front of a group of officers last year, I seriously questioned the advice.

According to Powers, there’s a definite difference between simply tripping over a brick and falling down because you’re clearly intoxicated, and that the police wouldn’t arrest someone for simply falling.

However, there is some truth to petting horses.

“Horses are the same as an officer, so you wouldn’t just walk to one and start stroking it’s back,” Powers explained. “Some people will slap the horse as they walk by and they would be charged with assaulting an officer. If you want to pet a horse, ask the officer riding first.”

Although some students may view restrictions on Halloween weekend as a frustration, it isn’t the intention at all.

“[We] try to maintain orderly and civil event,” Powers stated. “We don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

Likewise, he doesn’t think that everyone should stay away from the block party on Court Street.

“The event itself, if you enjoy it sober or not intoxicated would be the safest way to still experience an Athens Halloween,” stated Powers.

Though the weekend can be controversy and stress laden, by simply keeping a level head, staying with a group and respecting officers.

Or keep in mind the words Powers, “Be smart, be civil, be safe.”