In last week’s column I shared ideas about how to choose (or make) safe Halloween costumes. This week, I’m sharing tips to keep you and your trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween. As you can imagine, Halloween is not Ukiah Police Department’s (UPD’s) favorite holiday. It tends to bring out the darker side of some people, and it is this dark side that requires everyone in law enforcement to be on their toes. While our dispatchers frantically answer 911 calls, our police officers race from call to call to keep people from hurting each other or causing mayhem.
One of the most important safety tips I can offer on Halloween night is not to use realistic replica weapons as part of a Halloween costume. Toy guns, swords, or knives should only be allowed if it is obvious that they are, in fact, toys. Heartbreaking cases of kids carrying replica guns have ended with kids being injured or killed because the toy was mistaken for a real weapon.
A few years ago, a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy was shot and killed after deputies repeatedly told him to put down what they believed to be an assault rifle. He was carrying a toy gun that looked real. It’s never a good idea to allow children to play with toys that can be mistaken for real weapons, but it is especially dangerous on Halloween night when law enforcement officers are already on high alert.
If your children go trick-or-treating, please make sure a responsible adult is present. Stick to neighborhoods you are familiar with and bring a flashlight. If the costume doesn’t have reflective properties, add reflective tape—this will help cars see children when they run into the street.
If a mask obscures your child’s vision, have your child pull the mask over his or her face for the trick-or-treat moment, and then remove it to avoid falls on poorly lit sidewalks.
Most importantly, after kids have collected their loot, an adult should inspect the candy and discard any that is unwrapped or appears to be tampered with.
Never Go Into a Home
Trick-or-treaters (and the adults who supervise them) should never go inside a stranger’s home, even for a minute.
Safe Driving in Neighborhoods
Exercise extreme caution when driving around on Halloween after dark. Be on the alert for excited youngsters darting out into traffic—their attention is often diverted and sometimes their vision is obscured by a mask.
• Drive slowly and cautiously.
• Look for children walking in the street, running across the street, or darting out between parked vehicles.
• Be extra careful when entering and exiting driveways.
• Minimize distractions (especially using cell phones) while driving.
Be sure someone in your group agrees to be the designated driver for the evening so everyone gets home safely. About every 52 minutes someone is killed in a drunk driving accident, and about every 90 seconds someone is injured due to this entirely preventable crime. Our department always increases the number of officers on duty on Halloween night to keep our community safe; so if you drink and drive, don’t complain when we take you to jail.
Staying Safe at Home
If you are a pet owner, remember that Halloween can be spooky for pets, too. Keep the family dog away from unfamiliar trick-or-treaters.
If you do not welcome trick-or-treaters, turn off your porch light. This is the universal sign to children that they should not knock on your door on Halloween. If your porch light is on but there is no candy, pranksters may be tempted to respond inappropriately.
Some people use Halloween as an excuse to behave badly. Do not hesitate to report suspicious activity to us. We would rather address a situation early than deal with damage after it’s done.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.