by PJ Friday, Nov. 03, 2006 at 2:03 AM

Halloween review

Halloween fallout: Nine shot, 3 stabbed, dozens arrested in Bay Area
By Patrick May
Mercury News
While members of the trick-or-treat set devoted Wednesday to their personal candy inventories, dozens of Bay Area adults spent the day counting something else -- stitches from stabbings and gunshot wounds or jail time for out-of-control partying that landed them in handcuffs.

From one end of the region to the other, gunfire and street brawls tainted festive and otherwise peaceful Halloween celebrations. And in at least two major incidents, police said, gangs were to blame.

San Jose, which has had problems in the past with unruly crowds attending downtown Cinco de Mayo and Mardi Gras celebrations, did not throw a holiday bash and reported no major incidents.

But in Santa Cruz, a 14-year-old boy and an adult male suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being stabbed in a gang-related fight near Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street, leaving a nasty blemish on a widely heralded event that drew as many as 25,000 people downtown.

In Fremont, a 17-year-old boy was stabbed twice in the abdomen while trick-or-treating, an attack police said may have been gang-related. Witnesses said he and his friends were jumped by more than 10 teenagers while walking through Ardenwood Park. He was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover.

And in San Francisco's Castro District, a gang fight that started with a thrown bottle and verbal back-and-forth ended in gunshots that sent at least 10 people to hospitals, though none of their injuries were life-threatening. Nine people were shot and another was injured in the ensuing panic. Two were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries and the others were released after treatment. No one has been arrested in the shootings.

The incidents spawned a new round of hand-wringing over public Halloween parties. The one in San Francisco was sanctioned by authorities; the Santa Cruz gathering was not.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declined to put the kibosh on future Halloween merry-making -- for now.

``Thank God no one was killed,'' Newsom said. ``What can be done? Is this an event that has simply outgrown the area? Can we put ourselves in the position to allow something like this to happen again? Obviously the immediate feeling is no, we cannot.''

After decades of drawing crowds in the hundreds of thousands, this year's event brought back ugly memories of 2002, when four people were stabbed. A concerted effort by police and city officials to tighten the lid on things has led to a heavier police presence, a ban on public consumption of alcohol and security fences to rein in the marauding masses.

But some who live and work in the area said Wednesday they were fed up with the spiraling violence that, given the heft of the crowds, may be uncontainable.

``Things started off calm, but the vibe got weirder as more and more people showed up,'' said Aiden Douglass, a waitress at the Squat & Gobble Cafe & Crepery on 16th Street at Market, where gunfire erupted around 10:30 p.m.

``I've lived in the Castro for seven years and seen the crowds get bigger and bigger each year. But the violence keeps getting worse, too, with all these people squeezed into an enclosed space on Market. They need to stop it, because too many people are getting hurt.''

Police said two people sustained serious injuries, one with a gunshot wound to the head. Both are expected to recover.

The day-after mood in Santa Cruz was far more forgiving. Police, city officials and the downtown business community all seemed comfortable with the course of the evening, despite the gang-related stabbing at night's end that sent two people to the hospital.

Police spokesman Zach Friend said a greater show of law enforcement personnel -- 120 officers this year vs. 60 last year -- helped keep the crowd of at least 20,000 revelers in line.

``Last year, we had seven stabbings, so we're down,'' he said. ``We had a few assaults this year and 51 arrests, mostly for being drunk in public. But we had significantly less trash and less violence than we've had in previous years.''

The biggest challenge for police, Friend said, is keeping track of the dozens of gang members who swarm into Santa Cruz Halloween night from as far away as King City and San Jose, drawn to what he said was now the de facto Party Central ``for the entire Monterey Bay region.''

Local gang-unit detectives, joined by colleagues from Salinas and Watsonville, worked the crowd, confronting and photographing at least 50 known gang members, most of whom quickly left the area. But next year, he said, more gang detectives will be needed to cover the growing ranks of trouble-makers in town.

``You have to remember that our normal population is 56,000, so we had about half that entire population crammed into the one-mile stretch of Pacific Avenue,'' Friend said.