Halloween is my favorite time of year.
Any of you who know me, know that I take all things Halloween very seriously. Now, though, with a son of my own, I can’t help but look back on my old childhood with longing. I grew up in a small town, where everyone was (mostly) safe to walk the streets after dark any day of the year, but especially on Halloween. If anything, there were MORE adults on Halloween than other days. I know now that perhaps my parents would disagree, but I never felt unsafe trick-or-treating. Each year we would go to the costume contest put on by the Lions Club (and win it, mind you) before switching to our “snow gear appropriate” street costume to hit the houses up for candy. We accepted home made treats from plenty of folks, probably most of whom my parents knew (probably). And, as we got older, we knew there was a risk of TPing, egging, vandalism, etc. My dad would patrol his business’ dumpsters to ward off anyone who wanted to set fire to it… and yes, he’d take our German Shepherd and Rottweiler along occasionally. But, really, that was the worst of it.
Nowadays, I have worked in juvenile prosecution, and I have seen parents come in to court with their kids for doing such things as removing small town Christmas decorations. As Huffpost noted recently, crime rates do spike on Halloween:
Evidence shows that, across both the United States and Canada, crime rates generally spike on Halloween, as compared to other consumer holidays. Many parents are aware of this trend, with only 37 percent of respondents to a recent survey indicating they are “not concerned” about Halloween safety.
It makes me wonder what type of kids we are raising. A little prank here or there can’t hurt anyone… Or can it?
Tips for parents of teens and tweens.
If you’re a parent of an older kid, maybe it’s worth talking to them about the consequences of their actions. In law, we call the tangential things that are affected by a conviction “collateral consequences” and, yes, it’s similar to the concept of collateral damage. Everyone knows that they might have to go to court for, say, an MIP, and maybe do community service, pay a fine, or do a class or something. But what teens often don’t realize is that if they take a conviction for MIP they can lose their eligibility to get federal student aid when they go to college (https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/consequences/156786/). If they are on school grounds using a controlled substance, it’s also mandatory expulsion from school (https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/consequences/156395/). Parents don’t know these things either! And what’s crazy is that cops don’t give warnings any more. Other parents may call your child in to the authorities, and cops are now stationed in schools of any substantial size as School Resource Officers. Discretion can’t be counted on, so talk to your kids.
It’s not just drugs/ alcohol offenses like MIP, either. Egging someone can be considered Assault, or at a minimum, Harassment in Colorado. Even a juvenile conviction for a crime of violence can have far-reaching consequences. Employment checks, background checks, public assistance, etc. And if someone is seriously injured (even if you didn’t intend to cause serious injury), a felony record is very hard to shake!
Stealing candy is something else to think about… In this case, what you steal is perhaps less important than how you steal it. FindLaw has a good article about this, but essentially stealing something FROM THE POSSESSION OF ANOTHER PERSON is a felony in Colorado. Stealing property not in the possession of someone else (say off the ground or a porch) can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the items stolen. Theft convictions on your record can make it incredibly hard to get a job later in life! Don’t do it! Jail time for these kinds of convictions is also commonplace, especially in cases of Robbery.
For more information about collateral consequences, see https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/map_text/ where you can search by your jurisdiction, by type of crime, and by type of consequence.
Halloween rules and regulations across the nation aim to promote safety.
As a society, we have now taken steps to regulate Halloween safety. Huffpost once again has a lot of information about this trend and some key examples:
According to James Alan Fox, a professor at Boston’s Northeastern University, criminal activity tends to increase on three specific holidays — New Year’s Eve, Independence Day and Halloween. Between 2006 and 2009, crime around the city of Boston was 50 percent higher on October 31 than any other date all year. Similarly, in Canada, police have reported a 50 percent upsurge of weapon-related felonies during Halloween.
Steps Toward Safety
Arguably, this ghoulish occasion brings out the reckless abandon in would-be troublemakers, which is why law enforcement is taking preventative measures against these actions. In order to reduce the risk of masked perpetrators robbing, or in some extreme cases, even assaulting people, many states ban anyone over the age of 16 from wearing Halloween costume masks.
Police have imposed stringencies on registered sex offenders as well. All sex crime parolees throughout the New York City boroughs must stay inside their homes on October 31, starting at 3 p.m., and cannot leave until 6 a.m. the following morning. Police officers have even been known to make random house-calls to verify these individuals haven’t come into contact with underage trick-or-treaters.
In addition to heightened law enforcement patrol on Halloween, numerous suburban areas also launch full-scale neighborhood watch initiatives. George Mason University’s student government participates in a “Witch Watch,” during which they provide surveillance for various communities throughout Fairfax County, Virginia.
Tips for Parents of Small Children.
- Don’t let them go out alone and make sure the ratio of adults to children in a group is safe.
- Start trick or treating before it’s fully dark and end when the bigger kids start coming out.
- Warn children never to go inside a home–even if it’s just to get candy from the foyer or entry way.
- Provide brightly colored costumes, use glow sticks, and avoid darkened streets.
- Advise kids not to break into the candy until they get home to weed out the potentially dangerous snacks.
- Remind children of street-crossing safety, and to hold hands to avoid getting lost or struck by a car.
- Have a meet up point set in advance in case of separation.
- Have an end-time scheduled before you leave the house and communicate it to the children in your group.
Source: New feed