By Caitlin Rushton
City News Reporter

Trick or treat!

It’s time to deck out in full (or not-so-full) costume and celebrate one of the most festive holidays in Santa Cruz.

Halloween night finds many students heading downtown, and with this year’s Halloween falling on a Friday, the turnout is likely to be larger than usual. Crowds are expected to be between 25,000 and 30,000, and police and gang enforcement officials will be out in full force to ensure everyone stays safe.

Officers from Watsonville, San Jose and Salinas and the California Highway Patrol will be out to monitor behavior and ensure a safe atmosphere during the popular event.

“Everyone in our department is working in some capacity on Halloween,” said Capt. Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department. “We request additional officers from everyone in the county. In our preemptive work we hope we won’t have to be as reactive.”

Heavier police presence, along with advertising campaigns promoting safe and responsible downtown behavior, have become more important since Halloween 2005, when seven gang-related stabbings occurred downtown. The number of violent acts has gone down over the years, but arrests and fines still remain high.

“In a large part it’s up to the people and how they choose to behave and represent this community,” Clark said. “Our goal is to make this as safe as possible for the community.”

Partygoers should be warned: Fines will be tripled for having an open container of alcohol, defacing city property, graffiti, littering and other behavioral offenses. Downtown bars will also have additional enforcement for alcohol consumption and occupancy.

While Halloween in Santa Cruz is one of the city’s most raucous celebrations, its turnout pales in comparison to the amount of people expected at the UC Santa Barbara campus, which also hosts an unofficial Halloween celebration that draws nearly 50,000 people. Many students are more inclined to stay local, however, because of the more manageable crowd size and greater feeling of safety.

“It’s amazing, it’s like Santa Barbara but smaller,” second-year Kristina Sheehan said.

Some students also choose to celebrate here in Santa Cruz for other similar reasons.

“It’s a lot safer [than Santa Barbara],” second-year Deanne Lyons said. “Not as shady.”