Local News

Freakfest preps mean scaling back patrols

Madison police plan for one of the city's biggest parties with fewer officers on duty

MADISON, Wis. - 22528886

After several years of truly frightening Freakfests, Madison police say the event is not so scary anymore.

With significantly fewer arrests during the past few events, the number of officers patrolling next week's Halloween celebration will be scaled back.

"Because the violence has been reduced, the crime has been reduced, it makes it a much, much more pleasant event for police," MPD Lieutenant David McCaw said.

In 2012, just 36 people were arrested, most for minor alcohol-related offenses.

McCaw said a number of variables contribute to how big the crowd is on any given year. However, last year police estimated there would be 45,000 people out downtown when only 33,000 showed up. In 2011, that total was just 26,000 with 32 arrested.

Freakfest became a ticketed event in 2006 after riots broke out in the streets.

McCaw credits all of the security successes to gating and said any problems are a product of overconsumption.

"In the early years, you couldn't walk from block to block without stepping on some sort of alcohol-related something or other. Bottle, can, vomit, something to do with alcohol," McCaw explained. "Now at the end of the night, when you scan, it's hard to see any sort of alcohol container."

McCaw now compares the force's Freakfest duties with those performed at events like Rhythm and Booms and Taste of Madison.

McCaw said among the changes, State Patrol will not be at Freakfest this year. In addition, fewer MPD officers will be needed for processing arrests. UW Police will also help with watching over the area.

McCaw said the key to making Freakfest fun for everyone is for people to enjoy themselves -- but not too much.

"It's the same thing I say for Mifflin, for football games. All in moderation," McCaw said. "It's a great event if everyone can maintain."

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