Eagle County Sheriff: Proceed with caution into the world of make-believe this Halloween (column) | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Sheriff: Proceed with caution into the world of make-believe this Halloween (column)

James van Beek
Valley Voices

James van Beek

For some, Halloween is a religious holiday, but for many, it is a day filled with fun, creativity and surprise goodies. It allows us to enter the world of pretend, becoming anything we want, and we are rewarded with goodies.

Some go dark and ghoulish, others become superheroes or funny characters and many of us just open our closets and wonder why we still own that thing and decide to get adventuresome. Kids dress like adults, adults dress like kids and everyone has a great time.

In a day of pretend, we must be cautious because we suspend reality and things are not as they seem. While the intrigue makes it fun, it can also be dangerous. Most of us remember the safety rules of childhood yet forget that they apply to adults, as well.

• Costumes — Stay warm. Layer with, coats, gloves, hats and long johns. Frostbite should not be part of the Halloween tradition. Wear comfortable shoes. Costume shoes are great in the store, not so while walking on ice or after the first mile.

Make sure all costumes are short to avoid tripping. Avoid masks, which impair vision and obstruct breathing. Choose makeup or face paint instead. Select light-colored costumes of fireproof material, adding reflective tape or stickers.

Use props that are short, soft and flexible. Toy guns should not look real. Carry flashlights or glow sticks for visibility by others.

Recommended Stories For You

• Food and treats — Eat an early meal before heading out to avoid snacking on treats prior to inspection. Never consume treats until examined, and discard anything not sealed in original packaging. Accept homemade treats only from people you know. Check labeling for allergies.

• Trick-or-treating — Use added caution while driving during the popular hours of 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Take younger children out during daylight; it's less scary and safer. Adults should escort children while trick-or-treating, even if just standing across the street. Plan route in advance and tell someone, including return time.

Stay in well-lit areas. Use the buddy system; never go alone or leave the group. Bring a cellphone but don't get distracted by it; stay alert to your surroundings. Never enter a stranger's home. If an emergency is claimed, call for help from outside.

Don't take shortcuts through backyards or alleyways. Pin a piece of paper with the child's name, address and phone number inside their pocket in case of separation. Walk facing traffic, as far to the left as possible. Remember, kids are distracted and twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween.

When crossing streets, be aware that cars may not see dark clothing. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Be alert at driveways for departing cars. Keep pets inside or at another safe place on Halloween.

• Home hosts — Keep walking areas and stairs well lit and free of obstacles that could cause a fall. Keep candle-lit jack o'lanterns away from doorsteps, walkways, landings and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, away from pets and small children.

With young children, consider decorating pumpkins with markers, glitter glue or paint; having them draw faces on pumpkins, leaving carving to adults. Use small flashlights or glow sticks for illumination, when possible. Never leave a candle lit pumpkin unattended.

Offer alternatives to candy such as small toys, books, crayons, stickers, packaged beach balls, etc. Consider throwing a neighborhood party instead of trick-or-treating.

Please remember that while Halloween is like a giant costume party, it is also prime for those with nefarious intent to anonymously participate in dangerous or illegal activities — whether it's property destruction, drug distribution, robbery or even sexual assault — which brings me to the area we dread most … sex offenders.

You may review sex offender information at https://smart.gov/sorna-map.htm. Click on your state, and input an address to view a map of offenders in your area. Print the map with addresses to take with you trick-or-treating. Only trust a sex offender registry published by local law enforcement. Many third-party websites are outdated.

Halloween is a time of imagination and fun. With precautions, it will continue to be a tradition of friends gathering to enjoy the middle of fall, with warm fireplaces and delicious treats. Be safe … we are here to celebrate with you.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.