Trick-or-treat time: Stay vigilant

The sound of ringing doorbells will be heard far and wide Saturday night as area children take to the streets of Marietta, Newport, Williamstown and more for trick-or-treating.

But as children march out into the night, area agencies remind parents to do some research before allowing their children to ring some doorbells.

Currently there are 122 registered sex offenders living in Washington County and no laws prohibit them from participating in trick-or-treat, although those still on probation and parole are often subject to special regulations that may ban their participation.

“They are allowed to pass out candy and put up Halloween decorations,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

While some communities go so far as to make every registered sex offender report to a local law enforcement agency for the duration of trick-or-treat night, Washington County opts not to have the hundred-plus offenders report Saturday or during the other trick-or-treat nights throughout the county.

Therefore Mincks recommends that parents make use of the searchable database of Washington County sex can show sex offenders within a two-mile radius of a given address.

For example, children trick-or-treating in the popular trick-or-treat areas near Phillips Elementary School might want to avoid the 11 houses occupied by offenders within a 1-mile radius of the school.

Similarly, Beverly residents who venture out Wednesday night for their local trick-or-treat excursion will find six sex offenders living in five houses within a 1-mile radius of Dodge Park.

The best course of action, said Mincks, is for parents to accompany children while trick-or-treating.

“Certainly don’t let any of your children go inside a house. And if possible, just go to people you really know,” he suggested.

Marietta resident Kaelly Erb, 27, will not know every house she stops at when trick-or-treating with her 4-year-old son and 2-year-old nephew in downtown Marietta Saturday, but she will know what houses to avoid.

“We’re well aware of what sex offenders live in our area and we avoid those houses,” she said.

Erb also follows some typical precautionary measures such as adding reflective tape to the stroller they will take out and buying her son a light-up necklace to make him more visible.

Reflective tape and light up accessories are a must for all children because most of Marietta’s trick-or-treating will occur in the dark, said Marietta Police Department Capt. Jeff Waite.

“Just because you can see a car doesn’t mean it can see you. Wear something reflective on your clothing. Be very careful when crossing the street,” he said.

It is also nice for each child to be given a flashlight to avoid tripping hazards during what is typically a long night of walking, he said.

In addition, parents should take the usual precaution of checking candy to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with.

Costumes themselves are another possible source of danger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It recommends first applying makeup in a small area to test for any reactions or allergies and that props should be short, soft and flexible.

Marietta resident Suzi Hendrickson has another valuable tip.

“We don’t let him take any more costume parts that he can hold. We’ve tried that before. It doesn’t work,” she said of her 6-year-old son, who will be taking a single set of play nunchucks with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Costume this year.

Those out and about are not the only ones who should be cautious on trick-or-treat night.

Those handing out candy should turn on a light to signify their participation, said Waite.

Additionally, the CDC recommends keeping lit jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries out of walking paths and keeping stairs and another traveled areas free of obstacles.

Finally, whether participating in the festivities or not, everyone should move pets indoors to a safe area during the course of the festivities, said Waite.