On behalf of the City of Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, I would like to thank you for being here and taking the time to listen to my message today.
Today, the City of Kalamazoo established a local State of Emergency. This was only done in order to aid Public Safety and First Responders in managing the large crowds that are predicted to gather for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, in our off campus student areas.
Over the past several years, it has become a tradition in Kalamazoo for local college students to gather to celebrate this holiday. This usually amounts to several thousand people, gathering together, drinking and having house parties. These parties often close streets or consume entire open areas and parking lots. This is an event which requires dozens of law enforcement officers and first responders from many local jurisdictions.
KDPS has planned for this event, as in years’ past, but now we find ourselves in a unique time where a worldwide pandemic has been declared. The State of Michigan now has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19. In light of the current health situation, the Governor’s temporary prohibition on large assemblies, and the information released in the past hour by the President, we now have other considerations in managing large crowds outside of traditional safety for party-goers.
It appears that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parties in Kalamazoo have evolved into a larger event than in past years. This is due to the current status of different universities and colleges, and the availability of students to attend these large gatherings. We have credible information that Kalamazoo will host a ‘state-wide’ house crawl party. For KDPS and local First Responders to manage the crowds of thousands, we have determined it is necessary to declare a police zone.
A police zone will be designated in the off campus areas where the large gatherings have traditionally occurred. Only verified residents in the area will be allowed inside the police zone. The police zone will include street closures and i.d. checks. Law enforcement will be taking strict enforcement of party-involved activities, per local ordinances and laws. Our local law enforcement partners will be assisting us, and in turn, we will assist them if these gatherings move to other locations.
Our goal is to prohibit a large gathering in order to protect the safety of our students, visitors and our first responders. We all are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19. By limiting these large gatherings is one of many ways. We do not want anyone to be infected, or to carry the virus to different parts of the state or to infect first responders, whose staffing strength is imperative to weathering this current crisis.
We appreciate the support of our local higher education institutions in our efforts for community safety.
I have informed you of our actions and I am now asking you to take precautions to protect everyone, including yourselves, and to not attend a large gathering, to include any St. Patrick’s Day events.
Please help to share this message.
Chief Karianne Thomas
For any additional information contact the Office of the Chief at 269-337-8270.