Homecoming crowds jam town

By Dave Gomez

Homecoming crowds caused both the DeKalb police and fire departments to increase the number of personnel on duty over the weekend.

“[Saturday] night was probably one of the busiest nights I have ever seen,” said DeKalb Fire Lt. David O’Donnell.

The department raised the number of personnel on duty from 12 to 15 and still needed to call off-duty staff to ensure all calls could be responded to, he said. A Sycamore ambulance also was called in because of the overabundance of calls the department received.

O’Donnell said the number of calls the department ran in a 24-hour period Saturday were likely the highest in department history.

The department fielded about 32 emergency calls during that period – several of them to the Convocation Center during the Homecoming Jam.

The department was called eight times to the center that night for incidents ranging from trash fires in the parking lot to alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol was not available for purchase inside the arena at any of the planned activities.

“[It] pretty much taxed our services completely,” O’Donnell said.

Many of the reports of alcohol poisoning were people who had passed out or felt sick from intoxication, O’Donnell said.

While the incidents were not life-threatening, they still needed attention, O’Donnell said.

“When we’re called for service, we need to respond,” he said.

Despite the increased need for fire and ambulance services this Homecoming, the need for police services was down from last year, DeKalb police Sgt. James McDougall said.

Police did not have the total number of arrests counted for this weekend, but said it seemed better than the previous year.

“Relatively speaking, it wasn’t as busy as last year,” McDougall said.

Cold winds and cloudy skies may have aided police over the weekend.

“The weather played a big part in keeping people inside,” McDougall said.

The number of incidents requiring more than a few officers to respond were few, McDougall said.

There were a number of fights during the weekend, most of them due to uninvited guests who simply didn’t want to leave, he said.

As a precaution, DeKalb police doubled the number of officers normally on patrol to 20 Friday and Saturday, and an additional 11 to 14 officers from state and county police were called in to assist as well, McDougall said.

Making your way through DeKalb Saturday night also proved to be a challenge if you were traveling by car.

The city was packed with visitors causing traffic to slow to a crawl.

Lincoln Highway, Annie Glidden and Greenbrier roads and Hillcrest Drive were particularly congested traffic areas, McDougall said.

Although the heavy traffic may not have necessarily hampered ambulances and fire engines, they certainly didn’t help, O’Donnell said.

“It was very unusual to see that much traffic at [2 a.m.]” O’Donnell said.