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Halloween: Deputies keeping eyes open despite holiday crime rarity

Studies have shown that Halloween celebrations in major cities can lead to spikes in crimes such as vandalism, homicide and robbery.

However, in Albuquerque, keeping an eye open might be all it takes in a city where the only real terror lies in houses and businesses being draped in toilet paper.

“There’s sometimes kids playing pranks, and I shouldn’t say kids, but maybe teenagers playing pranks, and they’re toilet-papering houses, doing different things like that. Other than that, we haven’t seen a real big increase in crime (on Halloween),” said Capt. Ray Chavez of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.

According to boston.com, the Massachusetts city experiences a violent crime rate on Halloween that is “50 percent higher than on any other date during the year.”

Forensicscolleges.com states that in 2011 there were 34 incidents of crime in south Los Angeles, and the Washington Post states that vandalism on cars were higher on Oct. 31 than any other day of the year between 2008 and 2012.

Crime of that nature is rare on Halloween in Albuquerque,Chavez said. The focus for his deputies is mostly on watching out for the safety of trick-or-treaters going door to door.

“We’re not doing anything specific, although in our briefings we do tell the deputies that we’ve got to be vigilant for the kids’ safety,” he said. “That means higher traffic enforcement in residential areas, and just... keeping an extra eye open.”

Part of local law enforcement’s line of sight will be around UNM on a holiday that TIME calls the eighth most popular nationwide for breaking out the booze.

“We will be on alert for pranks and parties throughout campus,” UNMPD Lieutenant Tim Stump said. “(However), we typically do not foresee any issues and have not in many years during Halloween.”

Stump advised students walking through campus during the night to be in pairs or larger groups, and all students are encouraged to call 277-2241 for an escort should they ever feel unsafe.

While law enforcement officials said there isn’t a noticeable spike in crime locally on Halloween, the same can’t be said for petty pranks and random acts of property crime, at least in some parts of the city.

Joe Gallegos, a member of the University Heights Neighborhood Association,said misconduct around this time of year is typically limited to plastic graves being pulled out from the ground and hanging ghosts being ripped from trees in homeowners’ yards.

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“That’s stuff that’s been occurring since probably the beginning of October, when they start doing decorations and stuff for Halloween,” Gallegos said.

In a voicemail message to the Daily Lobo, Carolyn Siegel, president of the Alvarado Gardens Neighborhood Association, said even that activity is unusual in the North Valley. She said she does not know of any seasonal crime in her neighborhood, and she has lived in the area since 1984.

Chavez said neighborhood associations, such as the ones Gallegos and Siegel lead, are vital to providing a public voice of concern to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, especially on days like Halloween.

“If in our area we get a tip of vandalism around those times... we would relay it to the deputies and tell them ‘Hey look, you need to help us out...’” he said.

He said when there is a spike of vandalism in a certain neighborhood, deputies make an effort to patrol that area more, especially on years like this when Halloween falls on a weekend.

Michaela Hida, a senior psychology major, said perhaps younger people who decide to pull pranks on Halloween feel as though they’re going along with the somewhat rebellious nature of the holiday.

“It’s bad, it’s evil, it’s getting in the spirit,” Hida said. “I know some people don’t even celebrate it because it has that mischievous connotation to it.”

Hida said she’s been a victim of random Halloween destruction – or rather her decorations have been.

“I’ve had my pumpkin stolen and smashed before and it’s just like ‘why would you do that?’ But I don’t know, because I have actually had friends who have gone and (done) stuff like that before, and they said it’s just something to do,” she said.

Whether it’s saving pumpkins from meeting an untimely demise or looking out for young children seeking sweets, Chavez said his deputies will be on the lookout.

“Even though we haven’t hired extra people, we’re still out there,” he said. “The sheriff’s department now is a fully-staffed sworn law enforcement agency that has everybody working, so we’re going to be working diligently to keep everybody safe.”

David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at new@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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