KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety declared a local state of emergency Friday afternoon, in hopes of minimizing St. Patrick’s Day crowds.
“Over the past several years, it has become a tradition in Kalamazoo, for local college students to gather to celebrate this holiday,” Chief Karianne Thomas said during a press conference at KDPS headquarters. “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.”
Typically, law enforcement is prepared to handle such crowds, Chief Thomas said at the podium.
However with the outbreaks of the coronavirus and COVID-19, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on gatherings of 250 people or more, KDPS will closely monitor certain areas around Western Michigan University, she said.
“For KDPS and local first responders to manage crowds of thousands, we have determined it is necessary to declare a police zone,” Chief Thomas said. “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.”
Chief Thomas said the police zones will include street closures and ID checks.
Police have not released where the zones will be located.
“Our goal is to prohibit a large gathering in order to protect the safety of our students, visitors and our first responders,” Chief Thomas said. “We are all trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, by limiting these large gatherings. It’s one of the many ways we can do that.”