Some cities view trick-or-treaters as something to fear, and not just because of their costumes

The classic sights and sounds of Halloween are well known: the crunch of the leaves as trick-or-treaters run between yards, the laughter that erupts as they receive mounds of candy from their neighbours and the joyful cry of “trick-or-treat” as they excitedly ring door-bells of houses shining with glowing jack-o-lanterns.

Calgarian Courtney Kwasney has been a dedicated trick-or-treater since she was very young. The 16-year-old high school student describes trick-or-treating as being integral to one’s self-expression. She is poised for this year’s outing.

“It’s a fun way that — no matter how old you are — you can still act like a kid, dress up and not worry about what other people are thinking.” said Kwasney, adding that she doesn’t see her participation in the tradition stopping until she is at least 17 or 18.

Courtney’s mother — Jennifer Kwasney — said that she has memories of their very first Halloween costumes.

“I think its fun for them to dress up, because it’s just a fun way for them to use their imagination,” said Kwasney — a mother of four.

As for when Kwasney believes Courtney and her other daughter 12-year-old Should you be asking to see identification before you dish out candy this Halloween?

Photo illustration by Allison DrinnanMakenna will stop trick-or-treating, she chuckles and said, “They would go as long as they can. That’s for sure.”

Youth in Calgary have the luxury of deciding for themselves when it is appropriate to retire from trick-or-treating. For some kids in the United States however, they have to put down the pillow bag of candy when the law tells them its time.

Stemming from a fear of older trick-or-treaters causing trouble, these cities and towns have enacted laws to only allow children between certain ages the privilege of trick-or-treating.

But how old is too old to trick-or-treat and is this something Calgarians need to be concerned about?

Cracking down in the U.S.A.

One of the most recent trick-or-treating restrictions that made headlines was in Belleville, Illinois, where in 2008 Mayor Mark Eckert made a push to ban trick-or-treating for kids of high-school age. In an article by MSNBC’s Today.com Eckert claimed that residences were afraid of older kids showing up at homes frightening single mothers and senior citizens.

When the Calgary Journal phoned Eckert’s office to speak to the mayor, his representative confirmed that the law was in effect, but would give no further comment. Eckert never returned any of the calls made by the Calgary Journal to his office.

Eckert is not alone, however, in his concerns over trick-or-treating. The state of Virginia has a few towns with restrictions on the age limit of trick-or-treaters. Most of these places also have a curfew of about 8 p.m. for trick-or-treaters who are of age.
In Norfolk, Va. — pursuant to Sec. 29-4 of their list of ordinances — no one over the age of 12 is allowed to engage in trick-or-treating activities and trick or treating must end by 8 p.m.
In Simi Valley, Calif., they have a restriction not on the age of trick-or-treaters, but on registered sex offenders. According to ordinance No. 1202– which was passed just this September – there is a strict restriction on sex offenders during the night of Halloween, Oct. 31. Some of the restrictions include posting as sign reading “No candy or treats at this residence” on their front door, no decorating of their residence and not answering the door during certain hours.

Some restrictions however, were found pertaining to Halloween and trick-or-treating in Canada.

In our own province of Alberta, the town of Smoky Lake has set restrictions. According to the written records from 2008, there was a motion carried that Halloween curfew of 7:30 p.m. be set for Oct. 31. A representative from the town of Smoky Lake did confirm over the phone that the town curfew on Halloween is still in effect.

What the Halloween experts say

Lisa Morton, American author of “The Halloween Encyclopedia” and “Trick-or-Treat: A History of Halloween,” finds it ironic — from a historical perspective — that people would see trick-or-treating as promoting juvenile delinquency, rather than preventing it.

For Morton, trick-or-treating is a day of empowerment for youth. She chuckles a little at the idea of cracking down on trick-or-treaters. One of the difficulties, she points out, would be the actual enforcement of the law.

“For one thing kids don’t even carry I.D., so you get a 13-year-old, what are you going to do? ‘Show me your lunch pass?’” questions Morton. “They were talking about senior citizens and single mothers having a problem with that and it’s certainly understandable, but truthfully, it does seem like kind of an over reaction.”

Lesley Bannatyne – a well known Halloween expert and author of the book “Halloween Nation : Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night” — finds that trick-or-treating is more about a sense of community for all ages, as opposed to a night to fear the kids knocking at your door.

“Halloween is the one night a year we have left where we open our doors to strangers; I think we somehow recognize that it’s an important part of living in a community,” said Bannatyne. “People who loved trick-or-treating as kids have a strong desire to pass it on to their children. It only takes two generations to make a tradition.”

What Calgarians say

“I think in general when kids go out without their parents, then that’s when there most apt to do things that maybe would be considered riskier then maybe when their with their parents,” said acting Sergeant Kathy Macdonald from the Calgary Police Service.

Macdonald had never heard anyone from the Calgary Police discuss the idea of placing age limits on trick-or-treating, and instead said the police try to better serve the community with tips and safety advice for both parents and kids.

“We always talk to parents and kids and support them in a safe Halloween experience,” she said.

Macdonald offers tips such as helping kids plan their routes ahead of time, making sure they have moveable and breathable costumes, and equipping them with a cell phone so they can contact their parents.

adrinnan@cjournal.ca 

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