Light the way for things that go bump in the night

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The scariest thing about Halloween isn’t the little ghosts and goblins running around begging treats, but the statistics that generally follow the holiday. For instance, on Halloween night 2001, 43 percent of pedestrians killed were children under the age of 14.

Diana Klink, the community outreach coordinator for the office of Suffolk’s Commonwealth’s attorney, said she recently sat down with two Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips &uot;Phil&uot; Ferguson to discuss safety tips that will help ensure that kids have their best ever Halloween.

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&uot;It’s almost Halloween, and that means giggling ghosts and winsome witches will be trick-or-treating in your neighborhood,&uot; said Klink. &uot;Because kids tend to focus on the excitement of Halloween and forget about safety, it’s up to us parents, caregivers and motorists to take special care so that these little boys and &uot;ghouls&uot; have a safe and happy holiday, and aren’t &uot;haunted&uot; by unnecessary injuries.&uot;

Ferguson has dedicated his office to educating the public on a number of issues including the prevention of domestic violence, how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, and even how to enjoy a safe vacation. He’s also published a brochure on &uot;Halloween Safety,&uot; and it is free for the asking just by stopping by the lobby of the Godwin Courts Building.

As for the children; Ferguson’s concern for the children of this city is manifested in the safety tips he offered Wednesday.

&uot;We want each and every child in Suffolk aged 12 and under to enjoy a safe and fun Halloween; one with many great memories,&uot; said Ferguson.

Ferguson added that motorists in particular should remember to drive cautiously on Halloween, least they go bump in the night with one of the little ghosts or goblins sure to be roaming the streets in search of trick or treats.

Suffolk’s Police Chief William A. Freeman also had several suggestions for parents to consider in keeping their children safe on Halloween.

&uot;First of all; it is imperative that drivers stay alert even in neighborhoods that don’t normally have a lot of pedestrian and bicycle traffic,&uot; said Freeman. &uot;They may experience an increase in the number of pedestrians, especially the trick or treaters, on Halloween night. Remember that kids will be excited, and may be trying to visit as many houses as possible within a specific time frame. Trick-or-treaters may suddenly dart into traffic from between parked cars.&uot;

Freeman also said drivers should be especially cautious in areas where there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood. Children could be walking in the street, and drivers are urged to be patient and reduce speed to allow children time to cross the street.

&uot;Children will be dressed in all types of costumes and their attire, especially face masks, may impair their vision and their ability to move quickly out of traffic,&uot; the chief added. &uot;Remember that kids will be excited and may forget to &uot;stop, look and listen&uot; before they cross the street.&uot;

The police chief also noted that when Halloween night rolls around, police officers will have the perfect alternative for trick or treating. Freeman said police officers in both the Downtown Precinct on East Washington Street and the Northern Precinct on Bridge Road will distribute candy to trick or treaters Friday evening. They will also be handing out the safety tips to their parents.

Joan Jones and the Crime Scene Search Unit is sponsoring the Ident-a- Kid program during the evening, however, all children must be accompanied by a parent to take part in the program.

&uot;We would much rather address crime before it happens,&uot; said Police Sergeant C. S. Patterson, a member of the Community Improvement Unit. &uot;Having prior information on the children, like fingerprints and other data, is the key to keeping them safe.&uot;

Freeman also said parents should instruct their children not to open their candy until they return home. &uot;Every piece of candy should be carefully examined for tampering before their children eat it,&uot; said the chief. &uot;It is best if we only hand out individually wrapped, commercially packaged candy and treats.&uot;

Freeman also noted that it is imperative that children be accompanied by an adult, and other family members should be advised of the route taken by the little ghosts, goblins and &uot;Sponge Bobs.&uot;

&uot;It is also important to set time limits for the children to be out and have them return home at a specified time,&uot; said Freeman. &uot;Also, do not allow your child to go to the home of anyone other than people you know. Unfortunately, in our world today, there are people who will take advantage of such a situation. Go only to the homes of friends or relatives, or better yet; take your children to the police department events, to the Seaboard Railroad Station Museum, or to any of the other organized events in the city’s churches. It’s a much safer way to celebrate the holiday safely.&uot;