Pursue treats safely

Area law enforcement officers warn parents about the continued danger of trick-or-treating traffic accidents this Halloween season.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says children are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween night — an alarming figure that police say can be avoided through safety measures.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said familiar and low-traffic neighborhoods are the safest routes to travel for trick-or-treating.

Reid said parents need to advise children to walk, not run, from house to house and utilize sidewalks and correct safety procedures when crossing streets.

“Halloween is a fun time in Catawba County,” Reid said, "but let’s make it’s a safe time as well. The major dangers are not from witches or spirits, but rather from falls and pedestrian/car crashes.”

Reid said drivers also have the responsibility of watching out for young trick-or-treaters crossing streets or entering and exiting driveways.

While traffic accidents can be the most costly, Reid said vandalism is the most prominent issue on Halloween night. He said his office responds to yards filled with toilet paper, eggs thrown at vehicles and houses, and mailboxes that have been vandalized.

“We always put extra deputies on duty, usually from our reserve unit,” Reid said.

This year is no different.

Reid said the sheriff’s office will also call in all registered sex offenders on Halloween night to make sure they are in a controlled environment. He said his office has worked with probation officers in the past to keep an eye on the offenders while children are trick-or-treating throughout the county.

Treat safety is also important, Reid said, and parents should inspect all candy children gather before it is eaten. He said a needle was found in an apple several years back, but he said tampered candy and treats haven't been a problem in recent years.

In addition to Reid’s tips, area law enforcement and the Hickory Fire Department suggest these safety measures during the Halloween season.

* Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
* Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.
* Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
* At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

* Make sure an adult or an older responsible youth will be supervising the outing for children younger than age 12.
* Check the sex offender registry at www.ncdoj.gov when planning your child’s trick-or-treat route. You can view maps that pinpoint registered offenders’ addresses in your neighborhood, and sign up to get email alerts when an offender moves nearby.
* Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children's companions.
* Make sure older kids trick-or-treat in a group.
* Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas and along an established route.
* Teach your children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well-lit and never to enter a stranger's home.
* Establish a return time.
* Tell your youngsters not to eat any treats until they return home.
* Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.
* All children need to know their home telephone number and how to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.
* Pin a slip of paper with the child's name, address and telephone number inside a pocket in case the youngster gets separated from the group.

Costume Design:
* Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes.
* Costumes should be loose so warm clothes can be worn underneath.
* Costumes should not be so long that they are a tripping hazard.
* Make sure that shoes fit well to prevent trips and falls.
* If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light-colored materials. Strips of retro-reflective tape should be used to make children visible.

Face Decoration:
* Do not use masks as they can obstruct a child's vision. Use facial make-up instead.
* When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled "Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives," "Laboratory Tested," "Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics," or "Non-Toxic." * Follow manufacturers' instructions for application.
* If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.
* Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
* Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if children are allowed out after dark.
* Carrying flashlights with fresh batteries will help children see better and be seen more clearly.

While Trick-or-Treating:
* Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
* Walk; do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
* Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
* Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic if there are no sidewalks.

* Give children an early meal before going out.
* Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten.
* Wash fruit and slice it into small pieces.
* Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or partially wrapped, or has a strange odor, color or texture.

* Keep candles and Jack O' Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
* Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
* Keep candles and Jack O' Lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could catch fire.
* Do not leave your house unattended.