The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's "Haunted Jail" event in Lakewood drew more than 4,300 visitors. Photo by Paul Clinton.
A year ago, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's Lakewood, Calif., substation marshaled its volunteers to put on the "Haunted Jail" event to build a bridge to the local community.
Sheriff's explorers and volunteers tapped their creative juices, decorating the holding cells with macabre Halloween scenes. The event drew 1,000 in its first year, and was an even bigger success this year, as many of the 4,300 visitors waited an hour to enter the haunted house event.
The event helps the community see their local law enforcement agency in a new light, said Sgt. Todd Knight, who oversees the Community Relations unit.
"We're going to be doing this annually to help the people in the community get involved," Knight told POLICE Magazine. "It's to build a bond with the community, to have them want to come to the sheriff's department, and to feel comfortable coming to see us."
To use the facility, deputies at the substation closed the jail — that can hold 50-60 prisoners at full capacity — the day before the event. Prisoners were relocated to a holding facility in a nearby city. Usually, detainees won't stay in the cells for longer than a few days, before they're moved to downtown's Twin Towers Correctional Facility.
The outreach effort required about 115 volunteers who donated their time and the supplies neccessary to deck out the cells with decapitated corpses hanging upside down, malicious clowns, chainsaw-wielding ghouls and eerie gypsies.