Every Halloween, the town of Chapel Hill seems possessed by a single statistic — the size of the crowd on Franklin Street.
But this is the wrong metric for measuring the success or failure of the tradition.
So here is an alternative proposal: Forget about the size of the crowd. Instead, focus on its safety and the conduct of its participants.
Balmy weather and a weekend date made Halloween especially enticing this year.
But overall, it appears that visitors to Franklin Street conducted themselves fairly well.
At the peak of the night there were 50,000 people on the street — 15,000 more than last year.
Yet police only arrested one person. Last year five were arrested, and 13 were arrested in 2007. Emergency Medical Services treated 22 people, 18 of which were alcohol-related medical problems.
These are not dramatic figures. They suggest that while the town experienced a larger-than-expected Halloween, the individuals on the street were better behaved, and generally safer than in past years.
In fact, possibly the worst crime of the night did not even occur on Franklin Street. A member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was stabbed after refusing entry to a group of men. This was at 1:30 a.m. — almost an hour after Franklin Street was cleared.
Still, police seem fixated on crowd size.
“I think we’re obviously going to re-evaluate as a town,” Chapel Hill police Lt. Kevin Gunter told The Daily Tar Heel.
But town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko described Halloween as a success because of the relative safety and good conduct on Franklin Street.
This is the paradigm shift that the town needs to permanently make.
The town incurs significant costs each year to keep people safe. Less fixation on crowd size and greater emphasis on enforcing good conduct will give the town a better measure of success.