Halloween is my favorite time of year. There's so much to love. Costumes, caramel apples, spooky movies, and of course, all that free candy. My whole family loves Halloween. Even my husband, a police officer in New York City. Sure, his love of the holiday is somewhat changed by the realities of his job and innate desire to watch over all the kids in our area, but he genuinely wants everyone to have a good time. I know you want your kids safe as well, so here's what a police officer wants you to know about trick-or-treating safely— because there's actually a lot to think about.
My husband, Tim, has been on the job for 19 years. In that time, he's seen some amazing, and pretty terrifying, things happen during the Halloween festivities. The great part about the holiday is that for the most part, people just want to have a great time with their kids or their friends and celebrate the season. However, there is definitely something to Halloween and its nature that lends itself to mischievous or even predatory behavior. Also, because many cities trick-or-treat at night on Halloween, there are a few extra considerations that you might not have thought of when dressing your child to go out.
1. Always Accompany Younger Children
Officer Tim says that you should accompany your children until they're at least teenagers, and after that they should be trick-or-treating in a large group of mixed boys and girls. "I wouldn't go to the door with our son (he's 10), but stay on the sidewalk," to make sure everything is above board and safe, he says.
I started trick-or-treating alone around age 8 or 9 with my sister who is two years older. Thinking back on this, I'm semi-horrified.
2. Make Sure They Can Be Seen
According to my husband, if your trick-or-treating happens at night or even at dusk, make sure your kids can be seen from far away. "They've got to be visible from the front and the back. Use reflective tape or those blinking lights they sell. Whatever, just make sure they can be seen," he says. Tim adds that because many costumes are quite dark, it is important that there is some level of light or reflectivity, especially near traffic. In New York City, there are usually plenty of street vendors selling those light-up tube necklaces and bracelets on Oct. 31, so get to cracking.
3. Map A Route
Tim says that you should take time to map a route with your child when they start heading out on their own, too. That way you know where they are, where they're going, and where they've been in the event of a problem. Also, it helps you go over the best places to go, the places you know, and the safe spots with your kid.
4. Identification Is Key
"Always, always, always, have ID on your kids, but not where just anyone can see it," Tim says. Even if your kids are with you, there's a remote chance you can be separated. Somewhere on their person, have their name, your name, and your phone number on a card or bracelet or necklace. Also, make sure they're wearing a medical alert bracelet if they need one. It's Halloween, and the streets are full of allergens.
But take heed — they should not have their name visible anywhere on their costume where someone could identify them and lure them by using their name. We don't even do visible names on backpacks or lunch boxes at our house.
5. Be Careful With Masks
Masks are incredibly popular and fun, but they also have a tendency to inhibit vision. This can be really dangerous in traffic, around unknown dogs, or even just walking around obstacles. If your kid is wearing a mask that blocks some of their vision, Tim says to "stick by them so they don't fall face first onto the curb, or miss out on the Reese's cups." Don't let him fool you, he steals our kids' Reese's cups as soon as they hit the bucket. I'm more of a Snickers gal.
6. Inspect The Candy
Yes, this is arguably the step best used to "test the candy for poison" by eating it. But it's also important. I will be the first to tell you that my husband is perhaps a bit more paranoid than most, but our kids don't get anything that can't seal entirely. That means we take all their Tootsie pops, Dum Dums, and twist-tied mints. We look over all the chocolate — some of it just really must be tested — and we make sure it's all safe.
Funny story — we went to a new area last year to go trick-or-treating because my husband worked really late and we were close to his command, so he had one of his officer friends run the candy through the X-ray machine at work. (It works like the one at the airport.) That's a level of crazy you do not need to achieve in my humble officer's wife's opinion. But, the kids did think it was cool.
7. Have A Meet-Up Spot
In the event you get separated, designate an easy place to meet up with your kids. Also, explain to them who to go to if they get separated or scared. Police officers, fireman, a trusted store keeper, or even a mom with a bunch of kids.
8. Stay In Well-Lit Areas Or Use A Big Flashlight In The Burbs
Staying in well-lit areas is the safest thing, but if that's not an option, Tim says to "use a powerful enough lantern or flashlight to fully light the area." You don't want to trip and fall, or come upon some unsuspecting Trash Panda out for a snack.
While this all may seem pretty daunting, it's really just looking out to make sure everyone has the best time possible. Halloween is about fun, and sometimes taking a few extra steps makes things smoother and safer, and therefore more fun for everyone. My husband jokingly adds, "Whatever we did as kids, you should probably be doing the opposite." Seeing as how he had street fights of shaving cream, and I went well out of my neighborhood to trick-or-treat, he's probably on to something.
What a police officer wants you to know about trick-or-treating is that it is safe, most of the time, but there's still a few things to think about beyond how to hide the fact that you've eaten all your daughter's Kit-Kats.