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Halloween can be a dangerous times for costumed kids

POSTED October 23, 2012 5:17 p.m.
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Halloween is next Wednesday, a fun night for kids and adults alike.

The city of Ceres is hosting its annual Halloween Fun Festival for everyone to attend free of charge at the Ceres Community Center. Daylight savings will still be in effect, but it will be near dark when the trick or treating activities are fully underway, so there are a number of hazards that can ruin what is otherwise supposed to be a safe and fun experience. A bit of caution and safety awareness is in order to ensure that your Halloween evening is free of tragedies for everyone involved.

The biggest threat to kids is motor vehicle traffic. Fatal pedestrian accidents are 4.5 times more likely on Halloween night. Trick or treating usually takes place when it is dark, since the sun will set at about 6 p.m. that day. Motorists will have a hard time seeing the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhoods and it is not uncommon for kids to run across streets or along sidewalks without being mindful to the traffic. And many costumes are black, so the kids wearing them are even more difficult to see. To make matters worse, masks tend to limit the wearer's vision, so it is easy to miss traffic dangers. Halloween night is one occasion that motorists simply cannot be cautious enough. In fact, leaving the car at home may be a good option.

The long-term weather forecast indicates that Oct. 31 will have mild weather with light wind and no threat of rain. Of course, these forecasts can change rapidly, so if rain and cold air become part of the Halloween scene, preparations for those variables will be necessary as well.

Costumes should be as brightly colored as possible, LED lights are a great addition and whenever possible, parents with flashlights should accompany the kids as they travel through neighborhoods. And it is not a bad idea to ensure that costumes are flame resistant and do not drag on the ground, thus causing a tripping hazard. Kids should be instructed to be alert to traffic and to not dash into the street under any circumstances.

Another threat that reminds us of the sick elements of our society is the food/candy safety issue. Each year, there are instances across the country of people placing pins, razor blades, excrement, and poisons into candy and other foods collected by trick-or-treaters. The first rule is to make sure that no food or candy is consumed prior to it being brought home and that it is thoroughly inspected. Even candy that looks to be in a sealed wrapper can be tampered with. The best bet is to accept and consume candy or other foods only from trusted sources like neighbors and friends who are personally known. The other Halloween-related problem is that of older kids, and sometimes adults, robbing kids of their candy or otherwise harassing them. The best measure against this problem is to have kids travel in groups under the direct supervision of adults carrying cell phones and flashlights. At least two adults should travel along with groups of children, as this alone will deter most all attempted robberies or assaults. If a crime does occur, be sure to call the police immediately. Keep in mind that Halloween is the one occasion when it is acceptable to wear a mask. Crooks know this and may take advantage of the situation.

The problems and threats associated with Halloween should not be too daunting, unless kids and parent are unprepared and have not taken steps to make for a safe evening. Here in Ceres, all regular police patrol shifts will be filled, along with additional personnel from the Street Crimes Unit to ensure adequate staffing levels for the holiday. And for those who prefer a more secure environment, many communities, the City of Ceres included, host Halloween festivals for families to enjoy. The one in Ceres will take place at the Community Center at 6 p.m., on Halloween evening.

I wish you all a fun and safe Halloween!

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