By the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program

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Dressing up, going to parties and trick-or-treating are fun Halloween activities that kids and families look forward to each year. As they get older, your children may demonstrate a maturity level that indicates that they are ready to trick-or-treat with their friends without adult supervision. By coming up with a plan that covers personal and traffic safety, you can ensure that their Halloween is not only a fun-filled event, but a safe one as well.

Fundamental to all discussions about personal safety is teaching kids to maintain a healthy vigilance over their environment. We don’t want them to feel scared while out in public, but to be alert and aware. This frame of mind allows them to identify problems sooner and act on their intuition. Let your child know that it is okay to be impolite and avoid interactions with anyone in the area who makes them feel uncomfortable. To maintain vigilance, they should eliminate distractions that impede their focus such as texting friends or wearing costumes and masks that limit visibility.

You both can walk the route together and identify places they can go for help if they observe anything that makes them feel uncomfortable along the way.

If you establish some ground rules for their excursion, the night should go more smoothly. You can begin with mapping out the route that they will take. If they don’t return around the time agreed upon, then you know where to look for them. The expectation is that they will contact you with any change in plans. You both can walk the route together and identify places they can go for help if they observe anything that makes them feel uncomfortable along the way.

Teach them to be aware of their location when they are out and how to call 9-1-1 if they need police assistance. On Halloween, they should visit only those homes with porch light on, since this indicates that visitors are welcome. Remind your children to accept treats at the door and refuse invitations to enter a home unless they check in with you first. Talk to them about eating only the candy that is properly packaged and sealed.

In preparation for Halloween, it is a good idea to reinforce pedestrian safety skills. Kids should use the sidewalks and shoulders of the roads instead of walking in the middle of the street. Crossing the street at a crosswalk is always a better choice than mid-block or between two parked cars. Remind your child to make sure the driver can see them before they cross the street. If you can find costumes that are bright-colored and reflective from the front and back, drivers will be able to readily see them. At a minimum, they may be able to find pedestrian lights to attach to clothing. If the route is not well-lit, you may need to find a better one or have them take a flashlight to light the way.

Halloween can be a positive and memorable experience for kids and families. Every year there are more options for family-friendly events that may be a welcome alternative to trick-or-treating. Check with your local library about events. It they want participate in the time-honored tradition anyway, talk to your children about safety, come up with a plan and have a great time!


To request a free training for your organization or community group on crime prevention topics, access our prevention handouts or find your Crime Prevention Coordinator, visit the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program website at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/cp for English; portlandoregon.gov/oni/prevencion for Spanish or call 503-823-4064.

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