Trick-or-treaters, and the Oakland County sheriff, talk Halloween safety

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 24, 2017

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills second-grader Liam Ryan, of Lanigan Elementary School, plans to do his part to trick-or-treat safely during Halloween.

“When I’m crossing the road, (I will) look both ways,” Ryan said of his parents’ advice on celebrating the Oct. 31 holiday.

Ryan — who is part of Cub Scout Pack 231 at Lanigan — is going to be a robot soldier for Halloween. 

“Because I love soldiers,” the pint-sized Halloween expert said. “I’ve been trick-or-treating before.” 

He added that his favorite part of Halloween is what comes after the scary festivities. 

“You get candy — every kind.”

Ryan is already on board with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard’s annual campaign to encourage parents and children to be safe this Halloween. Bouchard’s message includes knowing where your little goblins and ghouls are at all times, keeping them visible at night and making sure rotten candy doesn’t spoil things.

“We try to put information out to empower parents to do all they can to keep their kids safe on what should be a very fun night,” he said.

The safety campaign includes bringing parents’ awareness to where sexual predators and offenders live. Parents can check the Michigan Sex Offender Registry online for their community. From there, parents can make a determination of where their children should go on Halloween, which Bouchard described in a press release as a “crucial safety mechanism.” Photographs of registered sex offenders and conviction information are available on the registry, the release says. For more information, go to www.oaklandsheriff.com and click the “sex offenders” link on the website’s right side.

West Bloomfield resident Dana Reinke said via email that it’s vital for parents to check the sex offender registry to learn about their community, especially during Halloween.

“Don’t drive your kids door to door. Park the car and walk,” she said. “If you don’t have kids trick-or-treating, stay home and help keep the streets clear of cars.”

Bouchard’s message also encourages people to wear reflective gear and/or have flashlights and glow sticks, especially when it is dark out.

“There have been kids that have been out on very moonless or low-moonlit nights that have been hit wearing dark costumes in the middle of the street,” he said, adding that pedestrian accidents in general are up dramatically in the U.S. 

“Probably because people are on their phones or they’re texting — walking, not paying attention — but also there seems to be more distracted drivers. Kind of a cautionary tale: Rely on yourself and not the driver.” 

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average a pedestrian was killed nearly every 1.6 hours and one was injured more than every 7 1/2 minutes in traffic crashes in 2015. That same year, pedestrian deaths accounted for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, and 26 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6 and 8:59 p.m. 

You don’t have to live in the county to stay safe, either.

Westland resident Francine Moore, who works in Farmington Hills, said that when she and her 9-year-old son go out trick-or-treating, they wear reflective clothing and a little more.

“With Michigan, for one, you got to worry about the cold,” she said, adding that she makes sure that costumes are big enough for layers to be worn underneath to stay warm.

Moore, who goes all out during Halloween — decorating her house inside and out, visiting haunted houses and more — said that Halloween is best served with a group of friends, and that helps with safety too.

Moore said that she and her son go trick-or-treating together.

“Right now I go with him,” she said, adding that someone needs to keep tabs on trick-or-treaters’ whereabouts. “Make sure somebody knows where you are at all times and where you’re going to be walking around at, in case something does happen.”

Bouchard’s campaign includes making sure children’s costumes are not too restrictive and that they have adequate holes for proper respiration and peripheral vision. Older children should travel in pairs or in groups at all times while trick-or-treating,  and people should never venture down dark, empty streets. Dark, unlit homes should be avoided, and children’s candy should be inspected before it is eaten.

Bouchard said that a candy check should be done inside in a well-lit house, and not outside in the dark.

“Have everything on the floor. ... Check packages. … Look at each individual piece,” he said, adding that if a candy package is completely closed and doesn’t appear tampered with, it should be safe to eat; throw away ones that appear to be opened or to have been otherwise disturbed.

According to the press release, if a child does get sick from eating bad Halloween candy, parents should call the child’s doctor or seek medical care immediately and save all wrappers, because it would be important to find out what they ate and where it came from. 

Bouchard added that youths who are trick-or-treating without an adult should have a phone on them at all times so their parents know what is going on. He added that old, unused cellphones that are charged but don’t have a phone plan can still call 911.

“You can pull one of the old cellphones out of the drawer,” he said.

People are also cautioned to keep flammable items, like jack-o’-lanterns, away from small children and away from flammable materials, like draperies, furniture and paper decorations, according to the release. Also, don’t leave burning candles unattended. 

Chuck Leckenby, an assistant den leader for Pack 231 at Lanigan — where Ryan attends — said that the leaders of the Cub Scout pack have discussed Halloween safety tips with their nearly 40 members. They plan to go over more things this weekend during a harvest festival event at Lanigan Oct. 27.

“We do (a) haunted hallway here ... just a place for the Boy Scouts to scare other students,” he said, adding that a large group of Boy Scouts typically goes trick-or-treating every year at 10 Mile and Orchard Lake roads, behind a popular hamburger spot called Greene’s Hamburgers.

“We look both ways before we cross the road; we travel in big groups so everybody can keep an eye on the kids,” he said, adding that the trick-or-treaters are decked out in glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets. “All that good stuff. … We always have very good experiences in Farmington (when we) go trick-or-treating.”