Halloween is nearly here and you’ve never been more prepared. You’ve ordered your kids’ costumes, set up all the decorations and purchased entirely too much candy for a single neighborhood of children. You’ve even talked to your kids about what they need to do to stay safe when they’re out trick-or-treating on the big night.
There’s just one thing you may not have considered. Most parents don’t — it’s a danger that hides in plain sight.
The uncomfortable truth is that your children may knock on the door of someone that isn’t trustworthy, or worse, may have a criminal past. While you’ve already done your best to pick a safe neighborhood, the unfortunate reality is that convicted pedophiles and sex offenders can reside in any community.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to use the internet to plan your child’s trick-or-treating route in a way you never have before. Proactive parents like you stay ahead of the game. Here’s how you can gain a better awareness of the world around you and your children.
3 Steps for Safe Trick-or-Treating
Some states have certain restrictions that prevent registered sex offenders from displaying decorations or handing out candy. That being said, it’s important for you to know where these individuals live and to actively avoid their homes while trick-or-treating with your little ones.
There’s no such thing as being too cautious. Your awareness as a parent can make all the difference. Here are three steps every parent should take to make sure their kids are safe out there.
Step 1: Look up county crime statistics
When selecting a neighborhood, it’s important to understand whether or not it’s a safe place overall. You can check out county safety statistics by searching any street address within a potential trick-or-treating zone. This can give you insight into the county’s crime rates and generate an estimated Safety Score that you can use to compare with other local areas.
Step 2: Search for nearby sex offenders
Once you’ve pinpointed an area that satisfies your safety requirements, check out the Nearby Sex Offender tab. You’ll be able to access a list of registered offenders in the vicinity. Each available listing will give you their name, age, and physical description. For a small additional fee, you’ll be able to see exactly where they live. Make a list of those addresses.
Step 3: Draw a trick-or-treating map
Print out a map of the neighborhood you’ve selected. If there are any sex offenders, take the list of addresses you jotted down and mark them with a big X on the map. Then give it to your kids and ask them to draw a route that avoids the marks. If they ask, you can explain by saying that those X’s represent homes notorious for giving out only healthy snacks or toothbrushes. Now that you’ve got your map, you and your family are free to get out there and collect enough candy that you’ll be able to hibernate through the winter.
What If I Find a Sex Offender My Area?
It’s a good policy to make sure that you know your neighbors but especially when it comes to Halloween. Some people get rattled if they run a search only to discover there are known sex offenders in their area. If you do discover someone with a criminal past, don’t freak out.
You can still take your kids trick-or-treating in the area, just be sure that you pick an alternate route or stay on the other side of the street. Talk to other parents in the community and make sure they’re aware of your discovery. You can even take charge and organize a community trick-or-treating group so that you can work together as a community to keep your kids out of harm’s way.
We know you’ve done your best to make this the safest (and most fun) holiday for your child. Odds are you’ve probably already covered most of this, but for the sake of thoroughness, here are some additional tips to keep your kids safe on Halloween.
8 More Tips to Keep your Tricksters Safe on Halloween:
- Dress your kids in brightly colored costumes. Dark clothing makes it difficult for drivers to spot them at dusk. If your child insists on dressing in a dark costume you can use glow-in-the-dark material or paint to help them stand out at night.
- Equip them with flashlights, glowsticks or even provide them with dual purpose battery-operated candy baskets that light up and look like jack-o-lanterns! Some parents even sew in battery operated lights into the costumes. Get creative, but whatever you do, make sure your children are visible to the eye.
- Train your kids to be safe on the road while they trick-or-treat. Take them to the chosen neighborhood one or two days in advance and show them where the safe spots are to use the crosswalk. Practice crossing the street and show them how to recognize the street signals.
- Don’t allow your children to eat candy without inspecting it first. To prevent them from succumbing to this temptation, give them some candy to nibble on before they leave. When they get back you can go through their candy while they watch a movie or play with friends. It can be difficult to separate a child from their candy, but talk to your children about the dangers and risks of eating candy before inspecting it.
- If you are keeping your children local to your own community, plan with your neighbors in advance. Ask which neighbors are interested in participating and prepare a route with your children. Take the extra step and invite neighbors that you have screened using our Spokeo’s People Search Tool. Ask participants to put up special decorations or lights and instruct your children to only visit the houses that are involved.
- Travel in groups. Don’t let your children trick-or-treat alone, especially if they are a small or single child. Find other parents who will be in attendance and coordinate a plan. Some parents share the responsibility by having one parent send them off from a destination while another waits to receive them.
- Tell your kids about “stranger danger.” Some parents think that silence is the best policy, but it is always better to be open and direct with your children about the perils that a stranger can present. Remind them not to go into anybody’s home or to touch anyone’s pet. Equip older, independent children with a fully charged cell phone that they can use to call you at any time.
- If you still don’t feel safe letting them out of your sight, you can opt to keep them at home and hand out candy with you. Make it fun by setting up a pumpkin carving “booth” or a caramel apple-dipping station. Set up plentiful decorations and lights. You can involve your children in the planning process by creating a theme for your party, such as a spooky castle or a haunted harvest festival. If your kids are focused on the fun of creating a welcoming space to bring the neighbors to your home they won’t notice that they aren’t allowed to go door-to-door.
You shouldn’t have to choose between staying safe and having fun. Research neighborhoods and plan carefully prior to trick-or-treating and you can have the best of both worlds. Don’t get left in the dark – one quick search will help you know before you go.