So on my desk right now are two copies of the latest press release from the Maui Police Department (otherwise known as news stories from The Maui News [subscription required] and Maui Now). Both stories are basically the same, repeating the same fear-mongering from the police about this year’s Halloween festival in Lahaina without any independent reporting or skepticism.
The Maui Now piece, which was posted on Oct. 16 (four days before The Maui News) and written by well-known cop/firefighter booster Wendy Osher, says that the Maui PD will be beefing up their Front Street presence during this year’s Halloween party in Lahaina. That means 140 cops on duty that night, 100 of which will be on Front Street itself, as well as the stationing of a “mobile command vehicle on site.”
Mobile command vehicle? Why not just break out that massive armored truck the PD just bought? If this seems, well, excessive, it’s because Osher (and The Maui News) says the Maui PD is projecting a major increase in the crowd–and these days, nothing frightens a police force more than a bunch of people who are having fun.
“Maui police are increasing officer presence during Halloween festivities in Lahaina this year in anticipation of a larger crowd projected at between 30,000 and 35,000–up from the 28,000 revelers who attended last year, officials tell Maui Now.”
Osher (citing the Maui PD) give two reasons for such a leap in the projected crowd. First, there will be a cruise ship in town on Oct. 31. And second, “The crowd growth is also projected to be larger this year because Halloween falls on a Thursday, which is closer to the weekend, instead of in the middle or beginning of the week, as in years past, said Lt. [Derrick] Lopez.”
Both reasons are highly suspect. As Osher’s police source helpfully notes in her story, the cruise ship “is tentatively scheduled to depart at around 6 p.m.,” which would place it a few miles out to sea by the time the Halloween party really starts up. And secondly, the fact that Halloween falls on a Thursday may, in fact, serve to dampen crowds. In fact, other non-Maui PD sources familiar with Lahaina’s Halloween celebration projects the crowd to be substantially less than the police department’s doomsday figure of 35,000.
“We don’t expect the crowd to be any less than it was last year,” Lynn Donovan, the Lahaina Town Action Committee executive director, told me on Oct. 18. “Maybe 30,000. Somewhat of an increase. Each year it has increased, so we do expect somewhat of an increase. It’s hard to guess because it’s falling on a Thursday.”
See, just because Thursday is kind of close to the weekend, that still doesn’t mean it’s a weekend. And that means it’s not likely to see the kinds of crowds that would otherwise appear on a Friday or Saturday.
But even if the Maui PD’s terror number of 35,000 revelers comes to pass, it’s hard to imagine things would get so out of hand as to require such a display of force. Of all of last year’s estimated Lahaina Halloween crowd of 28,000, Maui Police Officers made a grand total of 13 arrests. If we scale up the projected crowd to 35,000, it’s entirely possible the cops might end up arresting 16 people.
Cover artist: Len Peralta
About Anthony Pignataro
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He started work as MauiTime's Editor in 2003, took a couple years off starting in 2008, then returned to the staff in 2011. He's the author of "Stealing Cars With The Pros," a 2013 collection of his journalism and the Maui novels "Small Island" (2011) and "The Dead Season" (2012)–all of which were published by Event Horizon Press. In 2014, his one-act play "War Stories" won second place in the Maui Fringe Festival.