Halloween is an opportunity for kids and adults alike to express their ghoulish (or just plain fun) creativity. This, of course, leads a few people, every single year, to making horrifically poor choices in costume. Scarier than that, though, is the fact that trick-or-treating seems to expose children to the public-at-large more than most days. Even with a parent or mature-enough-to-make-decisions chaperone, children going door to door seems a little scary, particularly for the families of those trick-or-treaters.

Of course, statistics don’t reinforce the concept of “stranger danger.” That distinctly American concept surrounds the erroneous idea that complete strangers are threats to kids. In fact, David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, writes for the Washington Post that “children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represents only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children” and that “children are vastly more likely to come to harm and even be abducted by people they know than by people they don’t.”

Basically, your ex-partner is more likely to kidnap your child during that custody dispute than is any stranger on Halloween. That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t actively try to keep kids safe, though.

After all, putting aside the very frightening, very unlikely abduction scenario, kids walking around roadways at dusk is itself scary enough: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, in 2012, 76,000 pedestrians were struck by cars throughout the United States. Most children hit by cars are boys, too.

So, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently offered a few tips on keeping Halloween as fun and safe as possible for everyone. Kane suggests, in part, that folks should:

  1. Accompany small children to every doorstep, and encourage older children to trick-or-treat in a group and stay within their neighborhood. If possible, provide a cell phone in case of an emergency.
  2. Never enter a home or car for a treat.
  3. Always use a sidewalk; if there’s no sidewalk, walk at the far edge of roadways facing traffic. In other words, walk against traffic.
  4. Never use alleys or cut across yards.
  5. Place reflective tape on costumes and treat bags to increase visibility for motorists.
  6. Avoid baggy costumes that could hinder a child’s ability to see or walk safely, and avoid fake swords, guns and knives. These props can still pose a hazard to your child or others, and they can cause alarm. (Whether or not you agree with that is beside the point: In this sad age of mass shootings, fake weapons are not cool, so don’t use them. Also, do you really want your kid to find violence playful anyway?)
  7. Discourage trick-or-treaters from eating candy until each piece has been inspected, and discard any opened candy or treats. Examine toys and novelty items for small, typically plastic pieces, too, particularly those given to small children who are prone to putting things in their mouths.
  8. Carefully inspect candy to insure it is not an impostor of a brand-name.

That last bit relates to the hysteria surrounding drug-infused candy. While we find it hard to believe that people are taking the time to make the candy and give away their own marijuana stashes and inexplicably abuse children in the process, we still think it’s important that folks be aware that people are saying that this is a thing.

The folks over at CBS Philly have a good rundown of all the safe, family-friendly trick-or-treating events in an around the city. And for those grown folks looking for their own Halloween hoots, PW‘s got its own list of happening parties, where the dance floors are most likely to mirror Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

So, be safe—and go have some fun.


About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists in both 2014 and 2015 and the Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the U.S. and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in 2014; and, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association presented him with the Edith Hughes Emerging Journalist Award in 2015. Along with his column, Josh blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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