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Valley Voices article - Sheriff James Van Beek: Have fun and be cautious this Halloween

For some, Halloween is a religious holiday, but for many, it is a day filled with fun, creativity, and surprise goodies. It allows us to enter the world of pretend…becoming anything we want, and we are rewarded with treats. 

Some go dark and ghoulish, others become superheroes or funny characters, and many of us just open our closets and wonder why we still own that thing and decide to get adventuresome. Kids dress like adults, adults dress like kids, and everyone has a great time. 

In a day of pretend, we must be cautious because we suspend reality and things are not as they seem. While the intrigue makes it fun, it can also be dangerous. Most of us remember the safety rules of childhood, yet forget that it applies to adults as well.

Here are some tips for a safe and fun Halloween.

Costumes

- Stay warm. Layer with, coats, gloves, hats, long johns, which means costumes must be large enough to accommodate those layers. Frostbite should not be part of the Halloween tradition.

- Costume shoes are great in the store, but not so while walking on ice or after the first mile — wear comfortable shoes.

- Make sure all costumes are short, to avoid tripping.

- Avoid masks, which impair vision and obstruct breathing — choose makeup and face paint instead.

- Select light-colored costumes of fireproof material, adding reflective tape or stickers.

- Use props that are short, soft, and flexible.

-Toy guns should not look real.

- Carry flashlights or glow sticks for visibility by others.


Food and treats

- Eat an early meal before heading out to avoid snacking on treats prior to inspection.

- Never consume treats until examined — discard anything not sealed in original packaging.

- Accept homemade treats only from people you know.

- Check labels if you have food allergies


Trick-or-treating

- Use added caution while driving during the popular hours of 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

- Take younger children out during daylight — it’s less scary and safer.

- Adults should escort children while trick-or-treating — even if just standing across the street.

- Plan a route in advance and tell someone when you plan to return.

- Stay in well-lit areas.

- Use the buddy system. Never go alone or leave the group.

- Bring a cell phone but don’t get distracted by it — stay alert to your surroundings.

- Never enter a stranger’s’ home.  If an emergency is claimed, call for help from outside.

- Don’t take shortcuts through backyards or alleyways.

- Pin a piece of paper with the child’s name, address, and phone number inside their pocket in case of separation.

- Walk facing traffic, as far to the left as possible.

- Remember, kids are distracted and twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween.

- When crossing streets, be aware that cars may not see dark clothing.

- Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.

- Be alert at driveways for departing cars.

- Keep pets inside or at another safe place on Halloween.

Home hosts

- Keep walking areas and stairways well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause a fall.

- Keep candle-lit jack-o’-lanterns away from doorsteps, walkways, landings, and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, away from pets and small children.

- When pumpkin carving with young children, consider decorating with markers, glitter glue or paint, having them draw faces on pumpkins, and leaving carving to adults. Use small flashlights or glow sticks for illumination, when possible. Never leave a andlelit pumpkin unattended.

- Offer alternatives to candy — like small toys, books, crayons, stickers, packaged beach balls, etc.

- Consider throwing a neighborhood party instead of trick-or-treating.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”  Please remember that while Halloween is like a giant costume party, it is also prime for those with nefarious intent to anonymously participate in dangerous or illegal activities, whether it’s property destruction, drug distribution, robbery, or even sexual assault, which brings me to the area we dread most…sex offenders.

Sex offender registry

You can access the sex offender registry for the state and Eagle County at: https://apps.colorado.gov/apps/dps/sor/search/search-map.jsf

Only trust a registry published by local law enforcement. Many third-party websites are outdated. You may also review information at: https://smart.gov/sorna-map.htm and click on your state.

Use the map to find offenders in your area. While on the registry, input an address to view a map of offenders. Print the map with addresses to take with you trick or treating.

More ways to be safe

The Sheriff’s Office and local police and fire departments offer free reflective bags, glow sticks, and other safety items. Please stop by and pick them up… we want to share in the fun!

Halloween is a time of imagination and excitement. With precautions, it will continue to be a tradition of friends gathering to enjoy the beginning of fall, with warm fireplaces and delicious treats. 

Be safe out there. We are here to celebrate with you! 

James van Beek is the Eagle County Sheriff. You can reach him at: james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.