Wisconsin Police Make Fewer Arrests at Relatively Calm Halloween Festival

The crowd was a lot smaller, but so were the problems, at an annual Halloween party that ended without violence or the use of pepper spray as it had in recent years.

Police recorded fewer arrests among the estimated 35,000 costumed revelers, less than half the 80,000 that jammed the party last year. About 250 people were arrested from Friday night through Sunday morning, compared to 566 last year, Sgt. Richard Scanlon said.

Most of the arrests were for alcohol-related offenses, he said. But one person was arrested for felony assault of a police officer. Another officer was treated and released for a broken wrist suffered in a fall while pursuing a suspect.

Overall, though, the crowd was well-behaved and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Police Chief Noble Wray called Saturday night a success.

"We met all three of my goals for this year," Cieslewicz said. "We did not have to use pepper spray or have our police in riot gear. We reduced the amount of over-consumption of alcohol. And we recovered a significant part of the costs."

This year marked major changes in the event. In an attempt to avoid mayhem, city officials charged $5 admission, blocked off the street, hired bands to play on two stages and imposed time limits.

After the festivities ended at 1:30 a.m., it took about an hour for the last remaining groups of people to disperse. With police watching from the sidewalks, and atop about a dozen horses, the crowd of primarily students dressed as everything from Tigger to the Duke lacrosse team, chanted, sang and hopped around in the frigid night.

"I expected more rowdiness," said Josh Simpson of Madison. "We're expecting them to use tear gas."

There was no widespread vandalism or violence. Police reported no major incidents along State Street, where the party was centered, or adjoining neighborhoods.

"I thought it would be more chaotic," said Tom Berringer, a senior at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., who made his second trip to Madison for the party.

The strong police presence, at more than 250 officers, was a sign of the beginning of the end of the party to Berringer, who was dressed in a woman's two-piece sailor suit.

"I figure it will only get worse," he said of the police involvement.

But the mayor said he thinks the party's success will help rebuild support for the event.

Significant problems date to 2002, when revelers threw rocks and bottles, breaking at least 12 windows and damaging police cars. In 2003, store windows were broken and at least two cars were tipped over. In 2004, a small bonfire was started and 450 people were arrested. Police have had to use pepper spray to quell crowds.

Elsewhere, police in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University, made 82 arrests at an annual Halloween block party, down from 95 arrests last year, officials said Sunday.

Most of the people arrested over the weekend were charged with disorderly conduct and underage drinking, police said. Twenty-three were Ohio University students.

The party has attracted as many as 20,000 people to downtown Athens in the past, but Police Chief Rick Mayer said this year's crowd was the smallest in years. Police could not provide a specific crowd estimate.