It won’t be long before we see princesses, goblins and ghosts walking around our neighborhoods, knocking on doors and asking for treats.
But there’s more than just tricks parents needs to look out for.
Here’s how you can keep your child safe this Halloween:
Check your neighborhood for potential risks.
You might know the people next door, but what about the people a few blocks down?
South Florida has more than 4,000 in-state sexual offenders and predators, who are either released and subject to registration, under an agency’s supervision or are absconded as of Tuesday morning, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s statewide database.
Parents can use the database to see if there are any sex offenders living along your child’s trick-or-treat route.
The agency told WPTV that the database’s information is not meant to be a judgment on the level of risk an offender might be to others. But it’s a tool that allows parents to make their own risk assessment based on the information provided.
Several Florida counties also told News4Jax that sex offenders are not allowed to distribute candy on Halloween, wear costumes that might attract children, decorate their home or have any exterior lights on after 5 p.m. during the holiday. Some counties also require sex offenders to post a sign that says “No candy or treats here.”
To use the database, type in your address, select how many miles you want to search (maximum is five) and select if you want to view the results on the map or in a list format.
If you’re using the map option, click on any of the home icons that appear. A picture of the offender, the name, address and a PDF file that contains information on when and why the person was labeled as a predator or offender will then appear. The list format will provide you the same information.
Parents can also download the department’s free mobile app “FDLE Mobile App” from the Apple App store or Google Play Store to have the information on-hand. The app also lets you search active AMBER, Missing Child and Silver Alerts and submit tips on suspicious activities.
Do check-ins with your child
Experts suggest that parents or another trusted adult accompany kids when they go out trick-or-treating.
But if you’ve agreed to let your child go out alone, take advantage of your smartphone’s GPS-enabled apps to keep track of the route.
Apple has a built in Family-Sharing app that can be found in settings (tap your name on the top of the setting screen) and Androids have a similar Google Family Link app. You’ll have to create and set up the accounts before using either of the apps. Those who have an older Apple system can use the “Find My Friends” app as a GPS tracker.
Both Apple and Android users can also share their real-time location using their phone’s messaging app or Google Maps.
Watch the road
Parents and children should always check for cars before crossing the road. But drivers also need to be aware.
“We can make Halloween a great time for everyone, most importantly for our children, by observing one very important safety reminder,” said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “If you’re driving, slow down and be alert for kids in the road.”
Ramsay recommends drivers turn their headlights on earlier in the day and be more cautious when driving, entering and exiting driveways. The most popular hours of trick-or-treating are generally between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., he said.
Parents should also try to take their kids out while it’s still light outside, he said, and make sure they are wearing light-colored costumes with reflective tape so they are visible to drivers on the road.
Other useful tips
▪ Take a flashlight.
▪ Don’t use phones or other electronic devices while on the road, especially when crossing the street.
▪ Don’t let your child eat any candy until you or another trusted adult have checked it for tampering.
▪ Children should only enter homes with their parent or another trusted adult.
▪ Don’t accept rides from strangers.
▪ If you notice anything suspicious or find a harmful item in your child’s treats, call police.