While students will be busy today shopping for their last minute costume items and planning their Halloween weekend itinerary, city officials and Greek life representatives are also preparing to make this festive weekend safer than in previous years.
The Interfraternity Council on campus is taking extra precautions to ensure safety not only for the Greek community but for all of Ann Arbor, according to Kinesiology senior Ryan Knapp, vice president of public relations for IFC.
Knapp said the organization is working with the South University Neighborhood Association for the first time to ensure safety in the area. This collaboration will serve as a way for IFC to branch out into the greater Ann Arbor community, he said. In the past, communication between the IFC and resident groups only occurred after an incident took place.
“In that sense our interaction has been very reactive,” Knapp said. “It’s phenomenal for two large organizations that have traditionally not communicated as effectively as possible to sit down and hash out problems and create innovative solutions.”
Robert Synder, president of the South University Neighborhood Association, said the collaboration between the organization and IFC will be beneficial and shows the Greek community’s efforts to increase awareness of neighborhood safety.
Snyder said the crowd at last year’s “Nightmare on Elm Street” block party was “uncontrollable,” and is something he wants to prevent this year with the right safety precautions. At the block party last year, a 19-year-old man was beaten by a group of 10 to 15 other men after he tried driving down the crowded street.
“We will be working together alongside (the) Ann Arbor Police Department to make sure events that happened last year on Elm Street do not happen again,” Knapp said.
This year’s Nightmare on Elm Street party is scheduled to take place tomorrow night. According to the Facebook event, more than 3,000 people are planning to attend, as of last night.
This year there will also be increased police presence in areas around town that typically have large parties.
“There is nothing wrong with being good neighbors and keeping the commotion down,” Synder said. “It’s common courtesy and decency.”
Many IFC fraternities are registered to hold parties this weekend, according to Knapp. Therefore an increase in safety awareness is encouraged among all IFC members, especially sober monitors who are responsible for party safety, he said.
“Because it is Halloween there is more potential for things to get out of hand,” Knapp said. “It’s very important to make sure everything is followed correctly to ensure party safety.”
One of IFC’s main precautionary focuses this weekend is helping out with the safety at Saturday’s Elm Street block party since it affects both Greek life members and the Ann Arbor community as a whole.
Theta Chi, an IFC fraternity located on the corner of South University and Washtenaw Avenue near Elm Street, will be working directly with AAPD.
LSA junior Michael Vaccarino, president of Theta Chi, said a squad car will be patrolling the fraternity’s property every hour each night this weekend, from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. This new effort comes after several incidents last year, including broken windows, fights and the hospitalization of a few Theta Chi brothers due to various injuries, Vaccarino said.
Last year police took a long time to show up at the scene and the fraternity members had to call five or six times before receiving a response, Vaccarino said.
Once the police arrived, things were returned to order, but the delay between the initial 9-1-1 call and the arrival of a squad car is something IFC and Theta Chi wanted to change this Halloween.
“If we can get the Ann Arbor police working with us things won’t get out of hand, and we won’t be in as much trouble,” he said. “The house parties are still going to go on (on Elm Street). It will just be in a much safer environment.”
In addition to the police, Theta Chi’s executive council members will also be staying around the premises of the fraternity to ensure no issues occur, Vaccarino said.
Knapp said the increased police patrol isn’t designed to increase the distribution of Minor in Possession charges, but rather to make sure everything is under control and to immediately attend to any problems.
“The main concern when large amounts of students congregate in one area is that there is always a risk for problems not only for the students there, but for the people living in the area as well, like excessive noise, trash, destroying of property and fights,” Knapp said.
But Snyder said students who are underage should still be cautious.
“If you’re going to drink and you’re underage, stay out of sight and don’t be a part of the mob,” Snyder said. “Don’t stand around outside where you can get tapped by the police.”
If someone is “visibly obnoxious” and isn’t standing on private property, they should expect to be ticketed, Snyder added.
Yesterday afternoon Synder showed Barnett Jones, the AAPD chief of police, the “hot spots” of the neighborhood. He said this would allow the police department to be present in these areas to take necessary precautions before incidents get out of control rather than waiting for calls later in the evening.
The increased police presence is an opportunity for all the partygoers to “act a little more adult and still have a hell of a lot of fun,” Snyder said.
E-mails were sent to all Greek life members reminding them to be safe this weekend, to be aware of their surroundings and to not be too out of control since there will be increased police presence, Knapp said. Additionally, the Michigan Student Assembly, the Ann Arbor Police Department and University Health Service created information packets that will be distributed to all Greek life members reminding them of the importance of maintaining a safe atmosphere during Halloween weekend. The packet contains safety tips with the University’s “stay in the blue” slogan along with other safety recommendations.
Laura Blake Jones, the University’s dean of students, and a member of the AAPD also distributed information sheets on Halloween safety, along with candy and condoms, to students living off campus yesterday.
“We’re not trying to stop people from going anywhere or having a good time, we just want more safety in large group settings because once people gather in large groups, group mentalities set in,” Knapp said. “We’re trying to avoid that.”
Provided that the collaboration between the two organizations goes well this weekend, Knapp said the IFC plans on working with the neighborhood association more often, rather than simply turning to them when a problem arises.