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Halloween, ECU homecoming a spell for increase in security

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Greenville Police Officer Lt. David Bowen discusses the police department's plans for Halloween in downtown Greenville during a news conference at ECU on Monday morning.

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Sharieka Botex
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Local law enforcement are gearing up for a busy weekend, increasing staffing ahead of Halloween festivities and East Carolina University’s homecoming football game.

Greenville Police Department’s Lt. David Bowen on Tuesday detailed the agency’s plan for Halloween on Monday, which includes setting up barricades downtown to control traffic near the event area and increase pedestrian safety. The department also will set up entrance points for people to enter the event area. Event-goers will not be permitted to bring any weapon, real or fake, into that area.

Bowen said it will be all hands on deck on Saturday and Monday, with basically the entire department working.

The staffing increase will begin Thursday and continue through Monday night. The department will pull in mutual aid from surrounding agencies, including Jacksonville and New Bern police departments, and also use school resource officers to focus on different zones and assist with safety efforts during the early evening trick-or-treat hours.

“We are just trying to think about different things we can do to help people and provide for the safest measures we can,” Bowen said.

The department also has hired “Staff One” to work security at the downtown entrance points. Security staff will be dressed in neon shirts and vests like those worn during ECU sporting events.

Chief Mark Holtzman said hiring “Staff One” alleviates the department from hiring 30 officers and paying overtime, saving nearly $2,000. It also allows the department to have police respond to calls for service rather than pat down event-goers.

“The downtown is only half the story, the other half is we are going to have a lot of resources out in the community,” Holtzman said. “We are policing the downtown, but we have an equal amount of officers working in the neighborhoods around the community, so they will be working closely with the apartment complexes. We are up staffing every single zone around the city.”

The department has implemented some changes following a review of last year’s festivities.

“We took a look at what was going on last year,” Holtzman said. “It was a big crowd and (there) wasn’t a lot to do if you weren’t inside a nightclub, so we’ve made some changes.”

The event area has been expanded this year to include businesses on Evans and Fourth streets and also includes the area behind the parking deck, where a park with hammocks is located. Holtzman said the expansion will give people more room to spread out, have something to do and enjoy themselves.

The department will have checkpoints throughout the weekend, and Holtzman encouraged people who plan to drink alcoholic beverages to rely on a designated driver or, if they are students, ECU Transit.

ECU Police Department’s Lt. Chris Sutton said the ECU bus transit schedule is changing for the weekend to accommodate students. Sutton said the transit will do pickups at Mendenhall and the Recreation Center bus stops on Saturday and Monday nights instead of pickups off Reade Street in downtown.

“We will do that because it’s possible at some point on Saturday that it would be problematic for the buses to try to get through the Uptown area because of the amount of people that we expect,” Sutton said. He said the same change was implemented last year with success.

In addition to preparing for Halloween, ECU police are preparing for homecoming, with events starting tonight and continuing through Saturday when the Pirates host the University of Connecticut Huskies at noon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“For the game on Saturday, we can see somewhere between 40-45,000 that will be here inside the stadium,” Sutton said. “I think historically what we’ve seen, when Halloween has fallen on a Sunday or Monday night that Saturday night is typically the biggest celebratory time.”

Sutton also anticipates a large number of people on campus on Monday night for Halloween Havoc in the Student Recreation Center.

The homecoming parade will occur at the same time as tailgating, and Sutton said officers will work additional hours to help cover the events and to support nightly patrol shifts from Thursday to Sunday.

“We are very fortunate that the officers we have are very dedicated and very skilled at what they do and are willing to put in the extra hours this week to be able to make these events happen so that our student body can enjoy them,” he said.

Sutton said it still is up to the individual student to handle himself or herself in a responsible way and make sound decisions.

Local law enforcement is encouraging the public to take part in helping with their own safety by wearing bright-colored clothing or some illumination device. Sutton said pedestrians need to be aware when crossing roads and use crossing guards and crosswalks. Sutton said costume wearers should be cautious about masks that hinder their ability to see.

Areas that are expected to experience heavy traffic include Fifth, 10th and 14th streets, Charles Boulevard and Cotanche Street.

“We are working through the weekend and on Monday night to have light towers similar to what we use around the stadium areas during football games,” Sutton said. The light towers will be in areas where heavy foot traffic is expected. 

“A good example would be 10th and College Hill,” Sutton said. “We will try to have additional lighting to put on individuals as they are crossing the roads.”

Contact Sharieka Botex at 252-329-9567 and sbreeden@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB. 

Checking stations 

There will be five checking stations located throughout downtown Greenville. These checking stations are optional; however, if someone does not wish to go through a checking station, they will not be allowed to enter the event area. For security reasons, no weapons, real or costume, will be permitted in the designated event areas. The checking stations are as follows: Fifth and Reade, Fifth and Evans, Cotanche Street near Chicos, Cotanche Street near the parking deck and Fourth and Evans

Parking

The Five Points lot is open for public parking this year. The parking deck in the late evening will be used mainly by employees of downtown businesses. Parking passes will be distributed to area businesses to consolidate the employee parking and allow lot and street parking for visitors.

ECU Transit

ECU Transit will operate special late night service on Saturday and Monday for students.

Halloween Havoc will be located in the Student Recreation Center at the Mendenhall/West End bus stop. 850 Pirate Ride will operate with extended hours making its last departure from Mendenhall/West End at 2:30 a.m.

All routes serving off-campus locations will provide one-way inbound service only until 12:30 a.m. After 12:30 a.m. passengers cannot board buses off-campus inbound to campus. All routes will drop off and pick up at the Mendenhall/West End bus stop. Return trips to off-campus locations will not be allowed until after 12:30 a.m. at which times all trips will only take passengers off-campus.

Routes operating will include all 900-series Pirate Express routes with the exception of 902 The Grid which will be modified and only serve University Terrace, Brownlea and Third, Brownlea and Wyndham, and First and Oak.

Buses will operate continuously without a set schedule from 10:30 p.m. until last trips depart Mendenhall/West End at 2:30 a.m.

Rules for Pirate Express will be in effect for all routes; absolutely no alcohol regardless of container is allowed. Weapons, fighting, smoking, backpacks, and other large carry-on items are also prohibited. Persons getting sick onboard will be assessed a $50 cleaning fee.

SafeRide will operate from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and serve its existing service area only.

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