By Jason A. Smith
It's almost that time again - time for children to dress up in their favorite costumes and load up on candy from their neighbors.
However, as Halloween looms closer, public safety officials are encouraging children and their parents to keep basic safety tips in mind -- and police will be out in force during the annual observance, to help out.
McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey said additional patrols will be utilized on Halloween night to maximize trick-or-treat safety.
Parents concerned about a particular item in their children's candy collection can take the candy to any of the local police departments to have it tested, said Dorsey. He said his department hasn't had any complaints of foreign objects in children's candy in recent years, but parents should still use caution.
"If you get stuff, and you're not sure where it came from, or the wrapping is open, throw it away," Dorsey said. "Don't let your children eat it."
One option that Dorsey said is perhaps safer for children is to participate in one of several fall festivals, or trunk 'n' treats events scheduled for Halloween night by local churches.
Trunk 'n' Treat events are outings in which children are given candy from car trunks in a church parking lot, or in some subdivisions.
For trick-or-treaters, who don't wish to participate in such an event, Dorsey said they should wear bright or reflective clothing, and should only venture into well-lit areas. In addition, he said parents should encourage their children to be aware of traffic on the roads.
Clayton County Fire Capt. Landry Merkison said recent years have seen more people attending community events in increasing numbers on Halloween night. However, he said, safety is still a concern for parents whose children go trick-or-treating.
"We do get an influx of kids getting hit by cars on Halloween," he said. "If the parents aren't keeping a hold on them, they'll dart right across the street in a heartbeat."
He said parents, who accompany their children when they trick-or-treat, should be sure to walk between their children and the road. In addition, Clayton County Police are encouraging children to wear flame-retardant costumes. The costumes, police say, should be short to avoid trips and falls, and children are urged to wear make-up, instead of masks on Halloween night.
As an alternative to traditional trick-or-treating in Hampton, Hampton Police Chief Rad Porter said representatives from the city's merchants' association and the police department will be in the city, giving out candy. "That way, you know where it's coming from," he said. "That makes a difference."
Chief Porter said trick-or-treaters should "use common sense" before venturing out for candy."If you're wearing black, go early or make sure you have flashlights, and walk on the sidewalk," the Hampton police chief said.
Henry County Police Capt. Jason Bolton said police "haven't had any major issues on Halloween," but that trick-or-treaters should "try and stay as illuminated as possible" when going from door-to-door Wednesday night.
He said parents should equip their children with flashlights, or glow sticks, before they hit the streets, and should inspect their children's candy when they bring it home, before allowing them to eat it.