Boulder cops thrilled with low-key Mall Crawl, Naked Pumpkin Run

pumpkin censored.jpg
"Thank you for not arresting us!"
In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the Boulder Police Department worked overtime to prevent a chaotic revival of the Mall Crawl tradition that peaked in the late '80s and early '90s, and warned possible participants in the annual Naked Pumpkin Run that they could face arrest instead of a mere ticket. No telling how much these efforts had to do with the peaceful, controllable crowd and downsized Pumpkin Run on Saturday. But BPD spokeswoman Sarah Huntley confirms that "we're very pleased with the outcome."

Final numbers on arrests and citations are expected later today -- but the preliminary totals were quite modest. Here's a look at the numbers:

According to Huntley, Boulder Police handed out 28 citations citywide between the hours of 8 p.m. October 31 and 3 a.m. November 1. Of those, only ten were dispensed on the Pearl Street Mall, where the main Halloween-related festivities took place, attracting a crowd estimated at 4,000. The breakdown: seven for possession or consumption of alcohol in public, one for resisting arrest, one for improper riding of a bicycle and one for a vehicle that didn't have a proper license-plate tag on display. There was also one arrest on the Mall -- the charges included resisting arrest and possession or consumption of alcohol in public -- and three people hanging out on the Mall eventually were taken to Boulder's detox facility. There, they joined four others transported to detox from other parts of the city; five arrests also took place beyond the Mall.

The arrest sum compares favorably with what took place in 2008. "Last year, we had eight arrests citywide, and this year, we made six," Huntley says. "That's not out of the ordinary for Halloween."

The BPD was certainly out in force. "We had more than 100 officers working Saturday night, and forty of those officers were on the Mall," notes Huntley, who was part of the Mall contingent. She adds that officers wore their regular uniforms, not riot gear. "We did not have them go out with helmets or anything like that. We didn't want to send a signal that we were expecting problems at all. In fact, we were fairly optimistic that we'd be able to keep things quiet.

"We had our officers group in twos and fours, usually at the end of each block and the middle of each block in the area we focused on -- the stretch of Pearl Street from about 10th to 13th," she goes on. "The chief [Mark Beckner] told them, 'I don't want you to be standing in alcoves. I want you to be out and about.' And most of the interactions I saw were very positive. A couple of officers said they had some people ask why there was such a presence, but the questions didn't lead to any problems. And a lot of officers got wry comments -- like, 'Great costume,' that sort of thing."

As for the Naked Pumpkin Run, it drew somewhere in the range of 100 participants last year. And this time around? "We actually only observed three Pumpkin Runners," Huntley says. "I was in the command post, so I only saw them on film. But even though they looked to be nude, their lower genitalia was covered, and that's completely lawful -- so our officers took no action." Like others on the Mall, Huntley heard rumors that another Pumpkin Run would take place elsewhere, but she hasn't received confirmation that such an alterna-race actually happened.

This year's potential Pumpkin Run crackdown attracted national media attention, including an October 31 Wall Street Journal article that missed part of the point, in Huntley's view. "They focused very much on the Naked Pumpkin Run, making it sound like we were ramping up with 100 officers to deal with that," she allows. "And actually, our bigger concern was the Mall Crawl. We did have concerns about the Pumpkin Run and have received complaints about it in the past, but it doesn't present the same kind of potential for violence the Mall Crawl has in the past. So our ramping-up efforts and planning weren't really related to the Pumpkin Run."

She describes the BPD's overall approach as "a two-fold strategy. One was to have a lot of communication in advance, and the other was to have a police presence -- but a respectful police presence. We didn't go out there to be aggressive. We wanted to go out there and be a part of the community and remind people why we were there. And we got a lot of words of appreciation from people, and a lot of e-mails telling us we set the right tone. I think there was some concern, because a lot of the rhetoric made it seem as if we would be intimidating. But we wanted to be part of the community -- and we made no secret of the fact that we were there."

Still to come: an accounting of money spent for security, etc. And while Huntley has no information about whether any Mall Crawl organizers might be assessed some costs, she sees the entire evening as a success. "There were definitely big crowds," she said, "but for the most part, everyone was very well-behaved."

And mostly clothed.


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