Halloween horrors Police response to 'Devil's Night' rampage was lame.

November 02, 1995

THE ANNE ARUNDEL County police force's response to a rampage of "Devil's Night" vandalism Monday does not inspire confidence. Residents from Linthicum to Severna Park suffered thousands of dollars of property damage -- the worst Halloween-related destruction in recent memory. A Severna Park woman woke up to find her car covered in concrete; the owner of a Glen Burnie limousine service found his tires slashed. These were malicious acts. Yet police seemed oddly nonchalant about the whole episode.

"We have this senseless destruction every year," said police spokesman Randy Bell. If that's true, perhaps the police should prepare a little better for Halloween. No extra patrols were assigned for Monday or Tuesday night, though officers were told to look for troublemakers in residential areas. Granted, budget constraints mean police have to pick and choose how they use extra manpower, and even with added patrols they can't be everywhere. Still, Halloween is one of those occasions -- New Year's Eve another -- when the potential for troublemaking calls for stronger policing if at all possible.

Not only that, incidents like these call for a strong, reassuring voice from the police. Having your car egged or your lawn ornaments broken may not make the 11 o'clock news, but they can be terribly upsetting. They make people feel violated and threatened. Victims -- and the public at large -- need to know that the authorities take these matters seriously. The problem in this case isn't that police aren't diligently pursuing the culprits; surely they are. The problem is their public response, which was to say vandalism is par for the course at Halloween, and there's not much they can do about it no matter how many patrols they dispatch.

Local police should avoid this year's mistakes next year. A Halloween safety campaign with tips for safe trick-or-treating and protecting personal property would be easy and inexpensive. Some publicity announcing that police will be on the lookout for vandals would reassure residents and discourage misbehavior. Extra patrols should be mounted. And if large-scale destruction occurs again, a less cavalier police response would let the public know the authorities aren't putting ruined cars in the same category as stolen pumpkins.

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