In the past week I've written a couple of blogs reminiscing about the Halloweens of my youth.  In the 60's and 70's, Halloween was a time for kids to go out at night without their parents and run the neighborhood.  It was the one night of the year where I didn't have to be home when the street lights came on.  It was an exhilarating feeling of freedom and camaraderie with my friends.

Then in 1974, things began to change.  That was the year that the Candy Man struck.   In Pasadena, Texas, on Halloween night, Ronald O'Bryan murdered his 8-year-old son, Timothy, with a cyanide-stuffed Pixy Stix.  O'Bryan had tried to pass the crime off on someone at a neighboring house, but the subsequent investigation revealed that he had poisoned his son in a effort to get the boy's life insurance to pay off debts totaling more than $100,000.

Then came the rumors that murderous people were putting razor blades in apples.  This turned out to be an urban legend, but the damage was done.  These events coupled with heightened awareness of sexual predators in our midst ushered in the era of helicopter parents shouting "Stranger danger!"

Now it is considered a must that parents accompany children when they trick-or-treat.  Many essentially "bus" kids to nice neighborhoods, where they will park and stroll the sidewalk with their children.  Parents will then allow the kids to walk unaccompanied up to the front door which affords them a modicum of independence. But the days of running unfettered through the neighborhood as a rite of passage from childhood to adolescence are over.  

The Bossier Sheriff's Office offers these safety tips for those who plan to trick-or-treat this Halloween:

  • A responsible adult should always accompany children when they trick-or-treat.
  • Children over the age of 12 that are responsible enough to trick-or-treat unaccompanied should stay in groups and follow a pre-discussed route.
  • Ensure that costumes don’t obscure visibility and are not so long that they could cause children to trip or fall.
  • Children should wear only costumes that are flame retardant, are reflective, and/or have bright colors.
  • Carry a flashlight or glow stick.
  • Whenever possible, trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods, stay in well-lit areas, and use sidewalks.
  • Teach children to bring treats home before eating so parents can examine them.
  • Teach children to never enter any home without you or without your permission, and only approach homes that are well-lit.
  • Teach children to say NO or GET AWAY from any person or situation making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
  • Call the Bossier Sheriff’s Office at (318) 965-2203 or your law enforcement agency about any suspicious activity or if candy is suspected of being tainted.
  • Consider safe alternatives such as parties at home, school, church, or community-organized events.

In the department's press release, Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington said, “I’m also asking motorists to be attentive to young trick-or-treaters and slow it down even more in residential areas with youngsters walking about on Halloween night. For residents passing out candy, be sure and leave your porch light on and remove obstacles from your sidewalks, porches or front yards that could cause children to trip and fall.”