Law enforcement agencies throughout the Mother Lode are not anticipating increased criminal activity during Halloween, but they will keep a vigilant eye on those seeking out tricks instead of treats.
“We’ve rarely had any issues on Halloween. We’re always making sure we’re doing proactive controls to help discourage bad behavior,” Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rachelle Whiting said Tuesday. “But even if there’s a Halloween prank or fun, we still take enforcement action on everything.”
But most law enforcement agencies in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties agreed that the majority of the Halloween season enforcement passed over the previous weekend.
The holiday will be staffed and patrolled in areas where safe supervision and enforcement will likely be needed the most — along major highways to locate motorists driving under the influence, in high-density neighborhoods packed with costumed children and adults, and in downtown centers with restaurants and bars.
Sonora Police Chief Turu VanderWiel said there would be “extra eyes on the streets” during Halloween, in anticipation of a spike in party calls, DUIs and public intoxications in downtown Sonora. Sgt. Tim Wertz of the Sonora Police Department added there would be additional community service officers patrolling the streets to deter some of the more common Halloween crimes, such as graffiti or vandalism.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason to it,” Wertz said. “I just hope its a safe evening for everybody and everybody has a good evening.”
California Highway Patrol Officer Tobias Butzler said the CHP was not increasing patrols, but there would be a more focused presence along Toyanza Drive in San Andreas, in downtown Valley Springs, and near the La Contena Golf Course.
Law enforcement officials believed that this year’s holiday would offer some reprieve from the typical Halloween antics of juvenile mischief, alcohol overconsumption, fights and vandalism because the holiday falls during the week.
“We don't expect an increase in criminal activity,” Butzler said. “Maybe if it were during the weekend, but when it’s during the middle of the week, they probably already celebrated it.”
Last year’s holiday was, in part, marred by a violent fight that occurred on the 20000 block of Willow Springs Drive in Soulsbyville. A man, woman and 1-year-old child were trick-or-treating, and the 28-year-old man confronted the driver of a vehicle for revving his engine in the busy neighborhood and swung a punch at him through the driver’s side window. The 28-year-old man was clubbed in the head with a flashlight by a 36-year-old man who came to break up the fight.
The 28-year-old man sustained a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.
Sonora-area CHP Public Information Officer Faustino Pulido agreed that most of the resources would be focused on impaired drivers and patrolling residential areas where pedestrians were expected.
But most of the DUI arrests for the Halloween holiday may be behind them, Pulido suggested, with a total of six DUI arrests on five individuals by the CHP between Friday and Monday.
One of the suspected DUI drivers, Giovanni Rudolph Mazzoni, 22, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of a drug at 11:38 p.m. on Soulsbyville Road in Sonora on Monday and at 2:07 p.m. on Friday on Longeway Road in Sonora on the same charges.
At the county level, law enforcement officials will look for petty vandalism or theft that were more typical on Halloween, but far from common, Whiting said.
“We rarely have any issues on Halloween, but some hotels or cemeteries teenagers or young adults will think they're haunted so they'll check them out,” she said. “In the past there might have been previous vandalisms to a cemetary or something like that.”
Whiting said the main request from the Sheriff’s Office on Halloween was that children wear glow sticks or flashlights on their costumes to make them identifiable at night.
Parents were also urged to check and see if candy was tampered with or somehow altered, she said.
“Through the years, parents have called in over concerns. I’m not sure if things have ever been substantiated about it,” Whiting said.
Whiting also said products should be evaluated to determine that they are not edible marijuana.
“The availability of those products is increasing over the years and just with our press release last year, a lot of the packaging makes it look similar to normal candies,” she said. “We say to look at the labels closely.”
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Andrea Benson said heavily trafficked pedestrian areas would be staffed with additional community service units.
The areas included the MotherLode West (Jim Brady area in Jamestown), Racetrack Street and Johnny Ave area, Willow Springs, downtown Twain Harte, and the Phoenix Lake Estates subdivision.
The office typically dealt with kids throwing eggs or damaging mailboxes and calls for erratic drivers and hazards such as kids in the roadway. There had not been any candy tampering reports, Benson said.
On Halloween 2017, there was one DUI arrest made by the Sonora Police Department on Stockton Road, and two arrests for possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office near downtown Sonora.
The Sonora Police Department also broke up a juvenile house party on McGowan Street.
The Sheriff’s Office made a misdemeanor battery arrest on Chukar Circle in the early evening, and a felony vandalism arrest in Twain Harte that night.
This year, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office will host a Haunted House in their office building on Lower Sunset Drive from 3 to 5 p.m.
Deputies and other personnel will be in costume and will hand out candy for trick-or-treaters, Benson said.
A downstairs portion of a haunted house will be friendly for all ages, and a second story will be optional for those seeking out more of a scare. Members of the Tuolumne County Administration Office, county counsel, probation, and Sonora-area CHP will participate, she said.