Halloween Crime Research: Freak Fest, Fright Fest and Kids and Candy

Crime in America.Net

Yesterday we offered tips for a safe Halloween. Today we search the Department of Justice’s database at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service for Halloween related research articles.

What we got was research on sugar and hyperactivity (which as parents we don’t believe) and four studies on college students acting badly during Halloween “celebrations”.

If you had an inkling that the data would indicate increased crime on Halloween, it wasn’t supported by our search.

Have a great Halloween!!!!

Let them eat all the candy they want!

White sugar, a carbohydrate, contains tryptophan, a precursor on the neurotransmitter called serotonin. The more tryptophan crossing the blood/brain barrier, the more serotonin the body makes. Serotonin in turn induces sleep.

Studies in the American military by Bonnie Spring showed that a breakfast or lunch high in carbohydrates reduced sustained attention as mood dropped and drowsiness ensued.

Out of all the sugar studies with children, the most consistent finding was decreased activity after ingesting sugar. This contradicts the hypothesis sometimes called the “Halloween effect.”

This theory argues that children’s increased misbehavior in school after Halloween is due to their having eaten so much Halloween candy. Parents, therefore, act under a misconception when they restrict their children’s sugar intake in an effort to reduce hyperactivity. Causes of misbehavior and hyperactivity must be sought elsewhere than in sugar consumption.


Halloween and drinking go hand-in-hand

A total of 1,253 students (805 females and 448 males) from two colleges in upstate New York participated in this study. A questionnaire entitled “Halloween Activities” was administered each year between 1978 and 1982 to students in social science classes.

Students were asked whether or not they wore a costume, whether they celebrated by drinking, whether they celebrated by smoking marijuana, and whether they celebrated by using any other drugs.

Findings indicate that, for college students, dressing in costume on Halloween is associated with the use of alcohol. No significant associations were found between wearing a costume and smoking marijuana or using other drugs. The association between dressing in costume and the use of alcohol does not imply a cause-effect relationship. Halloween is often considered a time for parties and celebration among college students, and dressing in masquerade costume is a core activity of the Halloween celebration. Alcohol consumption among college students is also associated with parties and celebration

Source: http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=141629

Overselling the danger

The concern for missing children resembles fears about other threats to children, such as child abuse, incest, molestation, Halloween sadism, and child pornography. In examining rhetorical tools used by child advocates when making claims aimed at raising public anxiety, the media’s role in transmitting these claims, and the public’s response to alarming statistics, the author contends that what is said about threats to children is subtly changed to fit the demands of journalistic and popular cultural formulas.

Source: http://www.ncjrs.gov/

Freak Fest

In 2002, Madison, Wisconsin’s 2002 annual Halloween party, known as Freak Fest on State Street resulted in a riot. Drunken costumed party participants harassed police, threw bottles, overturned bicycle racks, and vandalized stores along State Street requiring more than 100 officers in riot gear to restore order and disperse the crowd of approximately 65,000 people.

Since this time, the Madison Police Department has created a multi-jurisdictional effort comprised of an 80-member Special Events Team.

There are a number of details identified which need to be considered when utilizing a multi-jurisdictional effort: identifying communication needs, training together, the use of standard equipment, having an arrest procedure, and having Incident Action Plans.

This article discusses the importance of preplanning security for special events such as this one. It is stressed that regardless of an event’s size there are core points the must be met, such as knowing the crowd, determining whether the need is for crowd control or crowd management and know the difference, and the continuous training of officers in both crowd control and crowd management.

The ultimate goal is for both the police and attendee at special events to come out on the other end feeling good, having enjoyed themselves, and having learned from the experience.


Roll Out the Cops

Two waves of surveys of event participants were conducted on October 31, 2002 and 2003. The effectiveness of the media and police campaigns were assessed by comparing the differences in individual behavior and perceptions about the event between these 2 years.

The survey solicited information on respondent demographic characteristics, including status as a student and whether they were local residents. Questions on behavior included attention to drinking and spending habits on the evening of the event; and a number of questions addressed respondents’ perceptions of the police, the media campaign, and their overall Halloween experiences.

The surveys involved just over 800 event participants over the 2 years.

The surveys found that increased police presence at strategic locations on Halloween night and arrests for violations of local ordinances significantly influenced crowd composition, including the gender and race of participants, repeat visitors, out-of-town participants, and respondents’ perceptions of the overall experience. There was a significant increase in the number of older participants in the second year, and a significant decrease in the number of out-of-towners interviewed the second year.

A significant finding was that almost half of the respondents in 2003 reported that they had a bad time at the event. Presumably, these respondents will be less likely to return to the event in subsequent years, thus breaking the chain of the event.


Fright Fest

University and college campuses around the United States have experienced an increase in riots and disturbances by large crowds of college-aged participants. A variety of strategies have been developed by campus and municipal police departments and local governments to deal with the problem.

One strategy is to host a university-sponsored alternative, alcohol-free event with the intent of drawing individuals away from problematic annual gatherings. These types of structured, alcohol-free events have four main goals: (1) to reduce the crowd size and traffic congestion surrounding large unstructured gatherings; (2) to provide a time in which participants must refrain from alcohol use; (3) to offer free food as a method of sobering up participants; and (4) to provide a safe alternative to the unstructured gathering.

The case of California State University, Chico (CSUC) is provided to illustrate how one university town found moderate success at controlling large crowds. Due to crimes and disturbances committed during Halloween 2001, the community of Chico responded by hosting an alcohol-free dance called Fright Fest during Halloween 2002 and 2003; surveys of participants and analysis of the previous disturbances revealed moderate success for the alternative event model in Chico.

Several arguments are presented against the use of university-sponsored, alternative events, including the argument that such events do not reduce crowds, they only draw more people to the area. Another possible drawback of these events is the diversion of police resources.

Ultimately, each university and local community must decide how to best control large crowd disturbances on their campuses. One model adopted by several universities is to schedule regular university breaks, such as winter break and spring break, during problematic times such as Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day




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