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PRO: No evidence of more sadism, sex crimes during Halloween

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 27, 2013 at 5:27 a.m.


HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS

Inspect candy for loose wrappers.

Wear bright colors that reflect in car lights. If costume is dark, place a piece of reflective tape on the front and back.

Make sure costumes fit appropriately and that masks don't obstruct vision. Carry a flashlight. A parent or guardian should supervise. Contain pets appropriately from trick-or-treaters; they may be spooked by doorbell ringing and Halloween costumes.

Look both ways before crossing the street. Don't go inside the home of strangers. Use crosswalks, follow pedestrian road rules.

SOURCE: Victoria Police Department

Every year, parents nationwide are vocal about the dangers of Halloween.

Child abduction, poisonous candy and cryptic messages and pranks from Halloween sadists are just a few of the concerns expressed each year by 24 percent of parents with children under 12 years old, according to a 2011 Harris Interactive poll.

However, empirical evidence doesn't validate such concerns.

While child injury from car accidents is a very real threat on Halloween, there is no evidence that Halloween is more criminally active than other days of the year.

Joel Best, a sociology and criminal justice professor at the University of Delaware, stated in a recent report that from 2000 to 2011, only six potentially harmful incidents of Halloween sadism were reported. The reports indicated pills and sharp objects were found embedded in candy bars.

Yet the incidents were found to be rare, and in 11 years, the six incidents yielded zero injuries.

Another study, "How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?: An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween," published in 2009 by Mark Chaffin, Jill Levenson, Elizabeth Letourneau and Paul Stern, stated that there was no correlation between an increase in crime rates and Halloween.

The study also examined child predator laws and found that sex offenders on Halloween were no more or less active than any other day of the year. The report also stated that state laws put in place to confine or limit sex offenders' activities on Halloween had little to no effect on sex crime rates.

The Rev. Montari Morrison, of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Victoria, said as a new father, he doesn't feel an increased protectiveness about taking his son trick-or-treating on Halloween.

As a church leader, he also isn't encouraging his members to disengage from Halloween festivities.

"We don't endorse goblins or ghosts or anything with a demonic nature, but the act of going out and getting to know your neighbors and fellowshipping and having fun - there's nothing wrong with that," he said. "I don't see any danger in it. You have your crazy people out there, but that is more likely to happen to children who are unattended."

Morrison's church is offering a fall festival to align with the Halloween season, but he doesn't feel parents need to substitute trick-or-treating for a church event.

"Let the kids trick-or-treat. Most people are like me and don't know a lot of their neighbors. But it's a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. I probably won't get to know them unless I go trick-or-treating," he said.

Victoria Police Sgt. Chris Guerra, who formerly worked in Victoria's Crime Prevention Unit, said there's no evidence to support that trick-or-treating is dangerous.

"Statistically speaking, if a child is with a parent, there is no evidence that it is any more or less dangerous than it's ever been," Guerra said. "The public sometimes can have a perception of crime sometimes, when the opposite of that perception is often true."

Guerra advises that parents accompany their child when out soliciting candy door to door but not to fear going to the doors of both the familiar and unfamiliar on Halloween.

"Don't go by yourself. And make it a fun, family event," he said.

CON: Children 4 times as likely to be hit by car during holiday

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