HALLOWEEN..IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!!!

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For most, it is. But for thousands of kids who set out for the fun and frightful night, Halloween turns into a REAL nightmare for kids and their parents. I remember when I was young, (yeah Brent, it was awhile ago), Halloween was such an exciting time. Almost as much fun as Christmas.

The school parades, picking out a costume, the anticipation of waiting until it got dark, then running through the neighborhood yelling “trick or treat” at every house until you could barely carry the bag of candy. It was fun then and it is still fun now, but precautions need to be taken in this day and age when violence and disrespect is so flagrant and common. It’s still fun even as a parent now, watching my kids excitement grow as the day approaches.

Unfortunately, now there are more things to worry about for our kids safety.
Years ago, we could run through our neighborhoods unsupervised, coming home only to unload a bag of candy. Nowadays, I question a parents frame of mind when they let their young child go alone to strange houses for Halloween, to sell candy bars, or to collect for a newspaper.

I’m sorry, maybe this is coming from the cop and parent in me, but I don’t trust anybody that I don’t know personally. To let my young child go out alone to strange houses while I sat home to watch television, sleep, or whatever, would be a total lack of responsibility to my child’s safety. That’s a big part of the worlds problems today, lack of parental responsibility. O.K., now I got myself started. I’ll stick with Halloween and save parental responsibility for another day.

Unfortunately, I have worked many Halloween nights and have seen the excitement in a child’s eyes turn into terror when the unexpected happens. I’m not talking about the terror of a witch or a ghoul jumping out at them, I’m talking about the tragedy of a crime or an accident.

A lot of young “punks” (I’ll call them that because that is what they are) go out on Halloween night just to terrorize young kids who are out alone. These roving gangs of punks usually take bags of candy from trick or treaters by force or fear. We get numerous calls of thefts where I show up at a house and a young child is traumatized by the fact that someone knocked them down and stole their candy.

It’s supposed to be a fun night!! I have gotten in the habit of keeping several bags of candy in the trunk of my patrol car on the Halloween nights that I work just to give to these young victims of crime. To see their faces light up when I give them a whole bag of candy is worth the small price. Maybe I can help make Halloween fun for them again, to help them forget the “punks” who ruined their night of fun.

How to avoid this? Go with your kids, or set up groups and take turns with a neighborhood parent to supervise the kids.

Another danger is costumes themselves. Remember what is on most porches on Halloween night, Pumpkins. And inside of most pumpkins is a lit candle. Luckily, most store bought costumes are fire retardant (not fireproof though). But with the price of costumes nowadays, and our children’s request for certain types of costumes, a lot of parents are making their children’s costumes.

That’s great, but there can be problems. First, make sure that you spray the costume with a fire retardant repellent. If your child comes in contact with a lit “Jack-o-Lantern” or candle, a lot of materials can engulf in flames in seconds.

Secondly, I see kids tripping over curbs, falling off porches, all because their costume is too big. If a child trips while trying to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle, or falls while running away from a stranger in a car, it could have disastrous results.

I’m not trying to scare parents from letting their children be “little monsters” for a night, I’m just trying to let parents know what is out there. Halloween SHOULD be a night of fun and excitement for all, kids and adults alike. I get a kick out of seeing all the little goblins, fairies, monsters and princesses come to my door, yelling “trick or treat” and running off to the next house even before the candy hits the bottom of the bag.

Most Halloween tips are like most of our other NetCops tips, common sense. But some people may not see the “common sense” unless it is black and white, so here it is.

NetCops Tips for a safe and fun Halloween!

• Do not let your children go trick or treating alone. Go with your child or set up a group and take turns with another parent so there is always an adult with the group.

• Do not go to houses or blocks where there are rowdy or strange people. There are enough other houses to get tons of candy, don’t take chances on questionable houses or neighborhoods.

• Never, Never let your child go into a strange house where you do not know the occupants. Tell your child to walk away from houses where they are invited in if they do not know the people.

• Avoid dark houses. Some elderly or religious people may not enjoy Halloween like the kids do. If all the porch lights are off, or the house is dark, skip it and go on to the next one.

• Make sure your children’s costumes fit. Don’t let them run around in a costume that they are constantly tripping over. If they need to quickly get out of the way of a car or a stranger, a fall could have disastrous results. Also make sure that the costumes are fire retardant. (either from the maker or by you spraying the costume. There are commercial fire repellents available)

• Do not let your children eat ANY of the candy collected until you have a chance to inspect each and every piece. Discard any open, ripped, or altered pieces. (some people give away apples, homemade cookies, homemade candy etc. as treats, but that is up to you whether or not to allow your child to eat it). My rule is, if it’s not sealed, it goes in the garbage unless I personally know the person who gave the cookie or treat to my child.
(Unfortunately, there are “sicko” people out there who like to poison or hurt children on this night of fun).

• Avoid any strangers who approach you on the street, in a car, etc. If a person wears a mask, you don’t know who they are.

• For you retailers, post a message on your front door that says “NO MASK’S ALLOWED”. It’s a fact that robberies (commercial and residential) increase on Halloween. If someone wears a mask on Halloween, they are far less likely to draw suspicion on this one day.

• If you go to a party, like any other celebration or holiday, have a designated driver. On Halloween, the jails are full of intoxicated witches, frankensteins, and French maids trying to drive home from a party while intoxicated. That would most certainly ruin a fun evening. If you happen to run over a little goblin trick or treating, you’ve ruined several lives. It’s just not worth it.

• If you give out candy, make sure it is sealed candy. If you give out special homemade candy or cookie treats to neighborhood kids, put a little note “from the Smiths” so parents know where it came from.

In short, go with your kids, use common sense, and enjoy the holiday. It’s hard being a parent and a child in this often violent and unpredictable world. With common sense and NetCops tips, we can still have a ghoulish fun time on Halloween.

The kids outgrow Halloween, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, etc. way too fast nowadays. Lets all enjoy these holidays safely with our kids while they are still young. That way, they can enjoy passing on the same SAFE traditions to their kids.

Have a fun and SAFE Halloween! Mark Lambert-NetCopsPSI

I can’t add much to what Mark pointed out above. I usually offer to work Halloween nights so that the guys with kids can be home with them. Not having children myself, I see an entirely different picture of Halloween.

I see teens driving recklessly.
I see Drunk drivers.
I see Vandalism.
I see Bullies.
I see fights.
I see Thefts from young children.
And I see fires.

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, an increase in awareness should be taken.

• Keep your house brightly lit, whether you are home or not.
Vandals are much less likely to approach a house that is brightly lit with porch lights or motion lights. Keep doors and windows locked. For whatever reason, this night brings out real “Nuts”, and everyone is wearing a disguise!

• If you are trick or treating with your children, carry a cell phone if possible. An immediate report of a theft or reckless driving can prevent kids from being injured. Know the phone number for the dispatch center of the police agency that covers your area. Calling 911 on a cell phone often means getting routed to a central answering agency, which causes delays!

• When reporting carloads of rowdy teens who may be vandalizing, driving recklessly, or who are “looking for trouble”, try to give an accurate description of the car or the subjects, and if possible a license plate number.

• There’s a very good chance that the pumpkin that you took so much time to carve with your kids, will end up smashed in the street, or through a parked cars window. If you’re not going to be home, move the pumpkin inside until you return.

• DO NOT leave a candle burning in a pumpkin UNATTENDED! Indoors or out, it doesn’t matter. Don’t be a statistic in the newspaper from an accidental fire that destroyed your home.

• Consider handing out candy from your front porch. That gives you the ability to watch what is happening on your street, and you can hear things much more clearly that “don’t sound right”.

• Don’t let your kids trick or treat alone! And carry a flashlight with you. Usually we have the most problems after 8 or 9:00pm when the older kids start making the rounds. Make your older kids accountable as to where they are and who they are with, by either telephone calls or by physically “checking in”.

• Use COMMON SENSE! Like Mark said previously Halloween should be a night of fun for the kids. Us adults can have fun too, but use Common Sense. I don’t mind taking a “Clinton” to jail for drunk driving, but we do mind having to knock on your door with tragic news about your 13 year old “Spice Girl” who was stuck by a car.

Every ACTION has a REACTION. We sincerely hope that your ACTIONS provide you with a safe and memorable Halloween. JL

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