The cost of Homegrown

I was looking for some information on the Town of Chapel Hill web site about Halloween logistics yesterday, and I came across some interesting data. It seems that since the town instituted the new "Homegrown Halloween" rules in 2008 to keep the the downtown party more manageable, they have greatly reduced the size of the party, but the cost to the Town is about the same!

I don't doubt that the evening is a much safer and probably healthier one for most of Chapel Hill, but I worry that the clamp down may also put a damper on the fun. When I was in my 20's I always thought there was something very special about large numbers of adults enjoying costume play, especially on the more conceptual level that many grown-ups incorporate into Halloween. I enjoyed walking around and laughing at the clever and creative costumes that came out after midnight. These days I live less then 2 miles from downtown but I wouldn't even consider going (if I had a babysitter) due to the threat of wandering into a police lock down. I'll save that experience for protests, thanks very much.

So according to the stats on the town web site (see tables below) EMS calls have been either the same or lower, and the cost to the town has remained about the same, even though there are generally less people coming out to enjoy the police state, err, I mean the festivities on Franklin Street. I also wonder how much the size of the party has to do with on which day of the week the day falls.

Crowd Sizes Event Management Costs
2003 78,000 $131,939
2004 80,000 $166,103
2005 50,000 $197,000
2006 70,000 $230,000
2007 80,000 $221,490
2008 35,000 $203,957
2009 50,000 $197,024


Halloween EMS Calls:

People seen for
alcohol related issues
Transported to UNC
for further treatment
2003 26 10
2004 30 +  
2005 40  
2006 40 18
2007 31 8
2008 31 8
2009 22 8

I'm really frustrated that the town can't find a better way to address the real problem at street parties, which is criminal activity (ie: violence, under age drinking, vandalism, etc.)  Instead they throw the baby out with the bath water. We've already lost Apple Chill. Is Halloween the next to go?



of the Homegrown Halloween.  I still think of Foy saying "I think the first thing is to make it clear to people that they're not invited" and of course disappearing in a cloud of smoke in that hokey video to promote the homegrown halloween when it was newer.  And that sentiment runs very much against the kind of welcoming community we should have.I understand cost containment and safety issues, but we aren't just saying outsiders are unwelcome, they're saying students, grad students, & Chapel Hill residents who can't afford to live downtown are unwelcome.

 I also wonder how much the size of the party has to do with on which day of the week the day falls.

I think this is dead on.  Next year Halloween falls on a weekday.  Will the town back off is defensive stance then?  Or will they use a one size fits all approach to weekend vs weekday Halloweens, which the day makes so much of a difference.Next year will be telling.

I've never been much of a Halloween guy myself, but you raise some great points here.  I understand the focus on public safety, but it sounds like the Town is more concerned with looking "tough" on this than with actually making things safer.  It would be one thing if the administration costs and safety problems took a marked dive when the changes were instituted; at least planners could claim to be achieving their goals.As it stands, this looks like any other attempt to institute conformity and "order" in response to what is almost entirely peaceful assembly and behavior -- ineffective and detrimental posturing.Halloween is a celebration; Chapel Hill should respond enthusiastically to that idea, not recoil at the sight of a little mild late-night hedonism.  Protect property and partygoers, make sure people aren't driving drunk, and punish the jerks who insist on ruining things.  Other than that, let the people have their fun.

By the way, Lenore Skenazy had a good piece in the WSJ recently about the all-too-common misconception that Halloween represents a significant danger to children.  It's obviously not about Chapel Hill specifically, and touches on some different issues, but it's an interesting read. 

The big crowds and enthusiastic out-of-towners were an important part of the experience.  Decreasing the size has definitely made it less fun and exciting.The last couple times, it's really felt like martial law.  The sight of hundreds of cops marching down Franklin Street at the end to chase people out, followed by more police cars than I've ever seen before, is not a pleasant one.   The way people in urban neighborhoods seemingly lose jurisdiction over their properties is ugly, too--my brother wasn't allowed to park his friend's car in his own driveway.  Forget having halloween parties and, you know, celebrating this aspect of our culture, with such opposition from the law.

Well, I'm a little bit more sympathetic with the Town than some of you guys. It's too early to expect reductions in costs because the Town must continue to prepare for the 80,000 size crowd, even if in one year we get it down to 35,000. The party reputation (open and wild) is still out there and media publicity is not going to have a dampening effect as much as access control.The Halloween street party was getting way beyond control, and out of control makes it impossible for the police to only worry about "the bad guys". The police knew, by the way, that gang members from Durham and elsewhere were starting to attend and that was a dangerous addition to our already abundant supply of local bad guys and idiots.This was too bad, because the vast majority of costumed revelers were a lot of fun and often very funny. But the costumed participants were getting to be a declining minority and the crowd a growing population of nonresidents looking for action.To the police the crowd was becoming a powder keg and they would be held responsible if disaster struck. The Town had to pay to bring in outside public safety support.As much as I loved the costumed street Halloween, I too stopped going. I hope the containment works and that the party returns to a community/campus celebration. It will take at least 4 to 5 years for this to stabilize  

Did the police produce any proof whatsoever that there was gang activity or a "powder keg"?  More importantly, why should the mere presence of certain people provoke any sort of police reaction in the first place?  Thinking something might go wrong is not justification for preventing peaceful expression and celebration.Police are charged with reacting to and investigating crimes, not shutting down innocent behavior in an attempt to prevent them.  People should be allowed to attend the celebration -- costumed or not -- unless they do something specific and illegal.  You know, that whole innocent until proven guilty thing.  I think that's still around.I'm not surprised, of course, that the police would present the situation in this light -- they get a lot more overtime pay when their fraudulent premises are accepted by officials as justification for intervention.

           "Thinking something might go wrong is not justification for  preventing peaceful expression and celebration."I am sure you know that the police did not invent crowd suppression of the Halloween street celebration, it was officially, formally, ordered by the Town Council of Chapel Hill, with full support by UNC administration.However, I suspect you have not been in a large crowd out of control. I have, and was almost killed. This has not reduced my love for peaceful expression and celebration, but it has made me very grateful for appropriate safety measures by professional and well trained law enforcement.My observation is that the CH police enjoy the Halloween costumes and street theatre as much as anyone. The town manager and the chief tell them how and when to clear the street when it's time to end the event. [I'm not going to get garbage collection on Monday because all of public works will be up town at midnight to pick up the mess] And the manager and chief have been told to do that by the Mayor and Town Council.I don't think the police enjoy overtime (via "fradulent premises"?) over being home with their family and trick-or-treating with their children.

I personally know a couple from another country who had visited Saudi Arabia and had Arab garb, wore the garb as a costume last Halloween night on Franklin Street. They were cursed at, spit at and generally abused. They were surprised. Would you have expected this reaction?

I've been married to one of the Public Works employees for nearly 13 years now, and I've gotten a bit of the back view of things.  Planning for this started MONTHS ago, it's not just police who get overtime pay, there's spending on porta-potties, lights, and the man-hours to get the barrels and signs out and set up.  I don't get to see my husband hardly at all this entire weekend because he's one of nearly 100 Public Works employees setting stuff up, organizing and tracking equipment and crew shifts, and so on.  At a cost of close to $250,000, there's no way the tax revenue can cover that. Also, whoever said 'mild late-night hedonism' hasn't been paying attention.  There are people mugged, private property damaged and destroyed, and employees who have to pick up hundreds of pounds of trash - everything from full cases of beer and random bits of clothing and costumes to puke etc. has to be cleaned up (which is itself a health hazard to the employees - they have to wear gloves to avoid needle-sticks and the like, for example).  Busted-out windows, people pissing in yards, etc.  -Bryn

Officials say about 35,000 people showed up.

Police ended the party around 11:30 a.m. as town crews moved in to clean
the streets. Authorities re-opened the area and the side entrances to
vehicles once they were able to move everyone off Franklin Street.

according to: was suprised when this happened, I thought it went until midnight.We've already seen diminishing returns on discouraging people from attending.  As Ruby pointed out it basically costs $200 k whether its 35 k people or 50 k people in years past.  Which means right now there is no financial benefit in discouraging those extra 15 k people from attending, unless they have gotten more efficent at it.  Since it was 35 k again this year I wonder if we've gotten any more efficient at it than last time.  If not, I don't see much reason to try to keep it smaller than 50 k.  If anyone comes across numbers on how much it cost this year, please post them! Driving everyone off the streets: 

Living in the surrounding neighborhood, I am very pleased on how the town handled this in the past 5 years or so.   We had one year (2005?) where:- Traffic was bumper to bumper at 11:30 pm on a residential side street- 2 fights broke out in front of our house- One group of individuals ran up to our door and was pounding loudly right before midnight.  Calling 911 after this incident provided no help (but they did follow up the next day, not helping out in the heat of the moment when we thought we were going to be broken into). - I went outside with a flashlight to view one individual urinating on our front yard  Yay Halloween. I have a 5 year old, and I have felt much safer.   


The Sidewalks were overfilled with happy revelers last night.  At 9PM, the sidewalks were over capacity, but the street was open for vehicular traffic - perhaps to expedite movement for the cars police were warning would not be allowed past the checkpoints.I believe Chapel Hill authorities sent a clear message - Halloween in Chapel Hill is a police action.  Locals and out of towner's alike are not wanted.


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