Staying safe this Halloween in Chicago

Whether a child plans to transform into an unruly ghost or an adventure-seeking hobbit on Halloween, parents can help kids stay safe.

Stay Safe Resources

  • To learn if a sex offender lives in an Illinois neighborhood,
    visit www.isp.state.il.us/sor/
  • For questions about Halloween safety, call the Chicago Police
    non-emergency number, 311.
  • To report vandalism or crime, or if you see strangers
    approaching small children on Halloween, call 911.

The safest way to celebrate Halloween is to take part in a community, church or school-sponsored event, says Marcel Bright, news affairs officer with the Chicago Police Department. Any trick-or-treating outside should be done during daylight hours, he says.

Parents should accompany children age 13 and under, suggests Ashley Gold, director of Safe Kids Chicago at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Older children don’t need adult supervision, she says, but should go out with peers. Drivers are more likely to spot a large group and teens can look out for one another.

Bright recommends light-colored costumes or reflectors on dark-colored costumes to increase visibility. Kids should stay in well-lit neighborhoods they know, says Gold, and bring a flashlight. Walk on sidewalks, staying off streets and out of alleys. Cross streets only at corners, crosswalks and intersections, and never cross between parked cars.

“The biggest issues we see are pedestrian-related injuries,” Gold says. Motorists should also be aware of the possibility of youngsters darting into traffic.

Even picking appropriate costumes, shoes and masks helps, says Gold. Costumes should be short and snug. “Big, baggy sleeves and billowy capes and shirts can cause kids to trip or catch fire if they brush up against jack-o’-lanterns or porches with candle flames,” Gold says. Kids should wear shoes that fit and costume props should be made of flexible plastic.

Parents should also ensure that a mask’s eye holes are wide enough to see through, and that the mask fits properly so that it doesn’t slip and block vision. Ultimately, face painting is best.

When it comes to candy, children should accept only sealed or wrapped treats, and parents should check everything before allowing kids to dig in, Bright says. Do not eat treats along the way.

Although Bright says there is no surge in child abductions on Halloween, he advises children to never enter abandoned buildings, deserted areas or places out of public view. They should never enter or accept treats from a stranger’s car.

Kids can help protect themselves too, says Joe Connelly, center director of Kidpower Chicago, a chapter of a national program aimed at preventing violence and building self-esteem. Connelly recommends kids keep in mind three general rules: Be aware of what is going on around you; maintain a safe distance-at least two arms’-lengths away-from strangers; and if you feel unsafe, get help.

On Halloween, “under no circumstances should children enter someone’s house,” Connelly says. Even if an adult is accompanying the child, “it sets a bad precedent.”

If parents are worried about the risk of sexual predators, they can log onto the Internet to learn of the registered sex offenders living in their neighborhood. In Chicago, sex offenders are required by law to register, Bright says.

“If you know that there’s a registered sex offender living in your neighborhood,” Gold says, “certainly don’t let your child go trick-or-treating at their house.’

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