Castro’s Halloween

Things will bump on Halloween night in the Castro once again as The City decided to hold the annual celebration this year despite talks of canceling the event, which draws more than 200,000 people.

To some extent, The City will pare down the event, according to city officials. There will only be one stage this year as opposed to multiple stages used in previous years. The hope is one stage will keep the costume-covered crowd focused on the event and out of trouble.

Last year’s party resulted in one stabbing and 12 arrests after the San Francisco Police Department stepped up patrols and established checkpoints for alcohol and weapons. The extra security was a result of residents’ complaints after two reported stabbings in 2002 and a shooting in 2003.

The number of people who attend the event worried city leaders, including the Supervisor Bevan Dufty. The City explored the possibility of canceling Halloween in the Castro, but after a meeting with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, the decision was made to continue with a scaled-down version of the event.

Details of how this year’s Halloween will be set up are still being worked out, according to Audrey Joseph of the Entertainment Commission, The City agency that has organized the event for the past three years. But she said organizers were reluctant to cancel the celebration because they feared it would continue with or without The City’s involvement.

“Even if we cancel it, it’s still going to go on,” she said. “Let’s say we say there is no Halloween in the Castro. Do you think people would not come?”

The City spends an average of $500,000 a year to set up and provide services such as police, fire and medical personnel for Halloween in the Castro.

It remains undetermined which streets will be closed, but in the past, the area around the intersection of Castro and Market streets has been cordoned off.

Supervisor Bevin Dufty said before Wednesday’s meeting that the main reason the event might have beencancelled was because The City was worried about residents’ safety. Joseph said there would be an increase in the presence of police and other city agencies to help control the crowd.

“We are going to be more enforcing of zero tolerance,” Joseph said.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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