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Halloween crime persists despite weather

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Photo by: Daryl Ontiveros | Staff Photographer

Halloween weekend was busier than predicted for local law enforcement, as alcohol-related crime coupled with storm related issues strained police resources.

The combination of the Oct. 30 flash floods, the time change and the usual increase in crime associated with Halloween festivities created a situation where San Marcos police officers had to handle 34 arrest charges as compared to 19 the previous Halloween weekend.

“When you compare this Halloween and the previous three Halloweens, there is an uptick in crime,” said Bob Klett, assistant chief of police.

Over the Halloween weekend, San Marcos Police Department answered more than 700 calls. There were only 411 calls during last year’s holiday weekend.

Klett said while some of the calls took only one officer a matter of minutes to handle, others required multiple officers to be on the scene for over an hour.

DWIs remained as persistent an issue as they had been in previous years, while the number of intoxicated pedestrian arrests nearly doubled.

This holiday boasted an increase in alcohol related crime similar to Halloween 2013. Klett said that both years, the holiday occurred during a flood which caused crime to rise dramatically within a short period of time, as the weather forced some partygoers and bar patrons to limit their celebrations to one night.

A stabbing occurred at The Woods apartments at 2:42 a.m. Sunday. Klett said the suspect had been drinking and stabbed the victim with a kitchen knife, following a verbal altercation. Klett cited both the assault and an incident where two individuals were arrested for refusing to sign a jaywalking ticket as alcohol-induced crimes.

To combat these crimes, SMPD worked diligently throughout the weekend, he said. They assigned half the department to work 12-hour day shifts while the other half worked the night shift.

“Overall, (the weekend) was extremely busy,” Klett said. “We had some problems with assaults and things like that, but it could have been much worse.”

The University Police Department experienced similar issues with alcohol-related incidents. The department dealt with fewer citations and arrests than last year, but the number of DWI arrests and minors in possession of alcohol actually increased.

Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving take special issue with DWIs, said Raul Vasquez, program specialist of law enforcement in neighboring Travis County.

“Unfortunately, it seems like just going up I-35 you can see that (DWIs are) a problem,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez referred to the 10,076 casualties caused by drunk drivers in 2013 as proof that people need to become more aware of the issue.

“There is this disconnect between the general public and the education we provide, so I want to help spread our message and prevent people from needlessly dying on the roads,” Vasquez said.

Klett expressed a desire to limit the frequency with which DWIs occur. He said citizens could play a crucial role in identifying drunk drivers.

“The best thing to do is to get on the your cell phone and call the police department,” Klett said. “Give us an accurate description of the vehicle and the kind of driving behavior they are seeing.”

Klett said juries often showed a preference for citizen’s first-hand accounts. The 911 calls can be used in court to help juries gain a more accurate idea of the type of erratic driving behavior the driver was demonstrating.