HALLOWEEN SAFETY – 2011 UPDATE
Each year, I post an article on safety for children at Halloween. My primary focus is always in terms of sexual predators, pedophiles, who see this day as a great opportunity to be around children they wouldn’t normally be allowed to contact, even registered sex offenders.
This year, I want to add other concerns: Basic trick-or-treating safety and Pet safety.
The number of child deaths due to vehicular manslaughter double during Trick-or Treat. This is unacceptable! Everyone knows children are out on this night, so there is no excuse for such tragic accidents. While dangerous objects in candy is a myth, candy givers rarely consider allergies, and children don’t always look at what they are given when digging into their goody bags with their friends.
Lastly, no on wants to see their child’s fun evening turn into the tragedy of a dead family pet. Pets and animals die from ingesting candy, running out into the street when the door is opened, and are taken into custody for attacking children coming into their yard. Animals are, also, tortured more this time of year – not for any TRUE Halloween celebration but by cruel, sociopaths who believe ridiculous myths about this time of year.
This article and any similar you may find is not meant to dampen the Halloween spirit or throw about panic. This is only a reminder about the dangers out there because so many allow their guard to drop so their kids can have as much fun as they had. They can still have just as much fun if you are willing to quietly do your part as their guardian. It is your obligation as they venture out so they CAN enjoy themselves and CAN enjoy childhood for as long as possible. They are counting on you to take their safety seriously and not put a neighbor’s feelings above theirs.
1. HALLOWEEN SAFETY: SEXUAL PREDATORS
RSO’s convicted of sexual misconduct with children are generally forbidden from participating in Halloween activities where children are allowed. This includes Trick or Treat. Many do not abide by that restriction and unless someone calls in a complaint, the police are busy across town with other crimes.
Moreover, in many states, the restrictions apply only to offenders on supervised probation. That’s right .. If a sexual predator has served his time or other punishment and is excused from supervised probation, he or she can legally hand out candy and toys to your children and walk among them at Halloween festivities. Since we all know the recidivism rate for sexual offenders of children can be as high as 100% when in the constant vicinity of their AOA (age of attraction), such a loophole puts our children at 100% risk when such pedophiles purposefully position themselves to stalk them.
Local law enforcement agencies, the FBI, and NCMEC, as well as volunteers like me, know that sexual predators consider Halloween the greatest opportunity of the year. They get to befriend kids with their parents right beside them, look at them through snug fitting costumes, and give them candy to convince them they’re okay.
This has long been a traditional predatory event for them. They even post stories about their encounters (LG moments, LB moments = Little Girl/Little Boy) the following day on pedophile forums and when getting together. We have read disturbing and vile accounts on pedophile forums about children in their costumes, descriptions of how sexy they look and the fantasies that were imagined about the neighbor’s child. We’ve heard them brag about getting children’s full names and addresses, and not just by the child but by the parent with whom the perp engages in a polite conversation. We’ve seen them coach each other in the proper ways of grooming the parents and the child in the following months for future sexual contact.
There was an elderly man a few streets over from our house who one year gave out small stuffed dinosaurs to only certain children – my daughter was one of them. He instructed each child to go home, read about the dinosaur, and return to tell him all about it, with an offer of cookies in his living room and a suggestion that they could come without mom or dad if they wanted. He wasn’t on the sex offender registry, but most parents knew this was crossing the line and less children were allowed to visit him the following year.
Not all child sexual abusers are listed on the National Sex Offender Registry, although it’s a very good idea to check out www.familywatchdog.us as well as the FBI’s official site registry for your state. Just because someone isn’t listed on the registry, it doesn’t mean they are harmless. It could mean they simply haven’t been caught.
Trick or Treat is a happy time for kids in this country and should not be feared or forgotten because of a few evil predators who use our kids as sexual fantasies. Simple caution can keep our kids safe and free to enjoy this enchanting time of year:
- Keep Halloween a fun experience for your children by reminding them of stranger protocol. Chance favors a prepared mind.
- Look at the registries and mark the houses on a map listed as the homes of sex offenders.
- Children should be reminded that although this is a fun ritual, strangers are still very much strangers and should not be given personal information (such as name, where they live, school, etc…). Teach your child it is improper for an adult to ask their name or where they live. Instruct your child to let you know if any one asks their information.
- Never allow children under 13 go out unsupervised. Every year, I see groups of small children accompanied by young teens and no parents in sight. This is unacceptable and anything that happens to those children are the fault of those parents – logically and legally.
- Choose your child’s costume with their age in mind. Age appropriate costumes and the designs of the costumes they wear (form fitting and revealing vs. slightly loose and comfortable) can be a deciding factor in one child being chosen as a target over another. Children allowed to dress provocatively are not only pleasing to a pedophile’s eye. They are, also, viewed upon by predators as having parents who don’t understand the dangers and more than likely, haven’t taught their children what is inappropriate regarding sexuality.
- Regardless of what a person at the door tells them, there is no good reason to ever return to that home. It could be a promise of more candy, letting them play with their dog or other family pet, etc…
- One thing pedophiles use to their advantage is that a child chooses their costume based upon their favorite things. This opens the door for a conversation with the child on the pretense of similar interests. If an adult tries to get into a conversation with your child, other than a brief “Nice costume” etc, take your child’s hand and leave immediately. It isn’t to say the person is a predator, but you cannot let your child grow accustomed to having conversations with strangers.
- Regardless of how polite the person is, they are still a stranger to you and your child. Therefore, you should not be giving out information, either. One grooming technique of sexual predators of children is to go through the parents to get to the child. This is not your friend or a chance at a first date. This is a stranger and should be treated as such for the safety of your child.
2. HALLOWEEN SAFETY: BASIC TRICK-OR-TREATING TIPS
Tips for Parents
On average, twice as many kids are killed in pedestrian/vehicle incidents on Halloween as compared to other days of the year. Pedestrian safety is not just the responsibility of the driver, however, parents can do their part to help kids stay out of the emergency room on Halloween by emphasizing safe pedestrian behaviors before they go out trick-or-treating.
• Cross streets safely. Children under 12 should trick-or-treat and cross streets with an adult. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
• Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don’t run, across the street.
• Pedestrians should try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
• Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
• Parents should remind children to be safe pedestrians around cars. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
• Children should not be alone at night without adult supervision if they are under the age of 12. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit.
Kids will be out while it is dark – making it harder for drivers to see them. This lack of visibility makes it important for drivers to slow down and watch out for trick-or-treaters, especially around crosswalks. Parents should remember that costumes can be both creative and safe.
• Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
• Choose face paint and make-up whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
• Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better, as well as be seen by drivers.
While pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should also be careful when dealing with candy and costumes.
• Check treats for signs of tampering before children are allowed to eat them. Remind children to only eat treats in original, unopened wrappers. Candy should be thrown away if the wrapper is faded or torn, or if the candy is unwrapped.
• While glow sticks are good for visibility, remember that the liquid in glow sticks is also hazardous, so parents should remind children not to chew on or break them.
• Look for non-toxic designations when choosing Halloween makeup.
Tips for Drivers
Drivers need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm. Safe Kids Cape Fear and FedEx caution motorists to be extra careful this Halloween.
• Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
• Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
• Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
• Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
• Drive more slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and be sure to drive with your full headlights on so you can spot children from greater distances.
• Remember that costumes can limit children’s visibility and they may not be able to see your vehicle.
3. HALLOWEEN SAFETY: PETS
*credit goes to www.aspca.org
1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.
5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.
6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.
7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.
9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.
10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you.
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