GV area law enforcement lay out security plans ahead of Halloween


GVL / Meghan Tripp

Emma Armijo, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University community is taking action to promote safety ahead of expected late-night Halloween festivities, following an influx of crime around the Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses.

As reported in previous weeks, crime near the GVSU Allendale, Pew and Health campuses has prompted an increased response from local law enforcement in the area, in addition to routine changes for increased Halloween activity.

Instances such as the shots fired at the off-campus housing complex Canvas Townhomes and reports of assaults on the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids have caused concern for many students and community members.

The police departments of Ottawa County, Grand Rapids and GVSU have aimed to prioritize the safety of the community and have indicated they are working together to reach solutions.

Grand Valley Police Department (GVPD) Captain Jeff Stoll said a recent focus for GVPD at both campuses has been increasing community engagement with officers, as well as working to add additional staff at both locations around midnight hours, when the most criminal activity has been noted.

“Officers on duty have been encouraged to interact with the public via property checks of campus housing units, traffic stops and personal contacts out in the field,” Stoll said. “Having a strong presence helps to show the community we are actively trying to keep the community safe and also causes criminals to reconsider their actions knowing our officers are active.”

GVPD is working closely with local agency partners to identify solutions. Stoll said that the Youth Alcohol Enforcement grants are very influential in their efforts to curb criminal activity in the Allendale area.

“We have been working with our bordering law enforcement agency partners to try and identify solutions together,” Stoll said. “For example, the Blue Bridge is now closed by the city after midnight and this reduces the amount of people in that area.”

Ottawa County Sherriff’s Office has created a new contract through Allendale Township as a response to the recent criminal events, specifically that of the shootings.

Sergeant Mike Vandenbosch of the Ottawa County Sherriff’s Office said the contract will put more officers out in the community and increase the police presence. Vandenbosch said he does not believe the events of the Canvas Townhomes shootings will deter anyone from going about their daily activities approaching Halloween.

“There are increased patrols allowed through this contract that we have, just to create more police presence in and around the (Allendale) campus and the offsite housing, more or less for the issues that we have seen so far this school year,” Vandenbosch said. “I would say, on average, there’s probably another three to five additional deputies on patrol, depending on what’s going on around the school.”

Ottawa County police will continue to adjust staff hours and patrols for Halloween, as they have for the past several years, Vandenbosch said.

“We do move a lot of our patrols and our staff to a later shift for the trick-or-treating, so we definitely have increased staff on the road during that time,” Vandenbosch said. “That increased presence is there to reduce that call volume.”

A representative of the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) says there are many different events that would draw large groups to Grand Rapids in October. GRPD works in many facilities to ensure a safe environment for those events to take place.

“GRPD works with other city departments, businesses, community partners and other stakeholders to provide a safe environment,” the representative said. “Trust your gut – if a situation is making you uncomfortable, remove yourself from that situation as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department also advises awareness of your surroundings, sticking to well-traveled and well-lit areas when walking and telling someone your destination, arrival and departure time and route if you plan to go somewhere alone.

While some students may not feel bothered by the recent crimes reported in Allendale, many have shared concerns following recent events and feel it’s best to continue forward with caution.

GVSU freshman Laina Stanton said the crimes reported in the area have made her more aware of the possibility of danger around campus.

“As a freshman, the Canvas shootings have really impacted my wariness of how I go about my everyday life here at GVSU,” Stanton said. “I have considered different living situations based solely off of safety purposes. It is important to me that I, as well as other students at GV, feel safe on campus.”

Whether the criminal activity as of late will persuade students to stay home for Halloween activities is unclear.

Oftentimes around the Halloween holiday, Grand Rapids, Ottawa County and Allendale areas experience higher alcohol-related crimes such as impaired driving, assaults, property damage and medical transportation.