11/01/2007

SF police presence at Halloween shooting site prevents repeat violence

By The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A heavy police presence in the city's Castro district seemed enough to spook revelers away from what was once home to the San Francisco Bay area's largest Halloween street party.

City officials canceled the event after nine people were shot at last year's costume bash.

On Wednesday night, bars and restaurants closed early, public transportation halted nighttime service to the area and sidewalk barricades were set up to discourage pedestrians from spilling into the road. The landmark Castro Theatre stood with its lights shut off, guarded by barricades and nine police officers.

However, more than 250 uniformed officers patrolling the area weren't enough to keep some people from checking out their favorite Halloween haunt. A light crowd of costumed revelers wandered through the neighborhood Wednesday night, and six people were arrested for public drunkenness, said police Sgt. Steve Mannina.

The party, which began in the 1960s as a spontaneous and unsanctioned event in the heart of the gay and lesbian community, was taken over by the city after 2002, when five people were stabbed and police found a man wielding a chain saw among the crowd of nearly 500,000.

Longtime resident Bob Mark said he was glad to have a quieter Halloween night at home.

''This went from being a really pleasant neighborhood event to a crazed tourist extravaganza,'' Mark, 60, said Wednesday.

Jeanne Hawkins, 43, came dressed as a witch with her costumed friends despite warnings to stay away.

''It's so sad,'' said Hawkins, who had gone to the street party for the last few years. ''This is world-famous, and they're slowly chipping away at all our traditions that make San Francisco what it is.''

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