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Breaking the Chain: Confronting Issueless College Town Disturbances and Riots

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 6 Dated: November/December 2005 Pages: 549-560
Rick Ruddell; Matthew O. Thomas; Lori Beth Way
Date Published
November 2005
12 pages
This study of factors in and responses to cyclical Halloween disturbances and riots in a college town (Chico, CA, home to California State University) sought a better understanding of the characteristics of large crowds of college-aged participants in annual problem events and evaluated the effectiveness of media and police interventions to discourage or break the cycle of these events.
Two waves of surveys of event participants were conducted on October 31, 2002 and 2003. The effectiveness of the media and police campaigns were assessed by comparing the differences in individual behavior and perceptions about the event between these 2 years. The survey solicited information on respondent demographic characteristics, including status as a student and whether they were local residents. Questions on behavior included attention to drinking and spending habits on the evening of the event; and a number of questions addressed respondents' perceptions of the police, the media campaign, and their overall Halloween experiences. The surveys involved just over 800 event participants over the 2 years. The surveys found that increased police presence at strategic locations on Halloween night and arrests for violations of local ordinances significantly influenced crowd composition, including the gender and race of participants, repeat visitors, out-of-town participants, and respondents' perceptions of the overall experience. There was a significant increase in the number of older participants in the second year, and a significant decrease in the number of out-of-towners interviewed the second year. A significant finding was that almost half of the respondents in 2003 reported that they had a bad time at the event. Presumably, these respondents will be less likely to return to the event in subsequent years, thus breaking the chain of the event. 2 tables, 3 notes, and 41 references


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