Halloween — What Can You Do to Keep Yourself and Loved Ones Safe?
In the 8th century, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and ghouls. The Roman Empire gave us our tradition of bobbing for apples at Halloween. In colonial America, it took on a celebration of the final harvest. It seems that the meaning of Halloween depends on the era and geography.
Today, madness, mayhem and mischief unfortunately take on multiple meanings when Halloween hits the suburbs of America.
The night of Oct. 31 sees not only candy and costumes but also crime – primarily property damage, theft and vandalism – and, unfortunately, sometimes lots of it.
“The evening violent crime count on October 31 is about 50 percent higher than on any other date during the year, and twice the daily average,” James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston, writes in a blog titled “Ghosts, Goblins and Violent Criminals.” “The most popular hours for gathering Snickers and Junior Mints around the neighborhood are apparently also the prime time for violent crime. During the rest of the year, by contrast, crime incidence rises throughout the evening hours, not peaking until just before midnight.”
Two other dates share the same phenomenon: New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July, Fox reports.
“Halloween is all about things that scare us,” he states. “Tales of tampered candy and abductions of young trick-or-treaters may be exaggerated, but the threat of ordinary street crime during the Halloween witching hours is very real.”
Going from the days when soaping windows and throwing rolls of toilet paper through the trees, statistics show that the upcoming holiday of horror will be crashed by criminals, of which consumers should take note. The crime-related incidents go up an average of 17% on Halloween and violent crime goes up as much as 50%.
“The major home security lesson of Halloween is to guard yourself against crimes of opportunity,” according to a Reviews.com article titled “Halloween and Home Security: Protect Your Home from Real-Life Scares.” “Halloween seems to invite havoc. Sometimes, taking advantage of an easy target can escalate to committing a serious crime.”
Property damage can involve everything from shaving cream to smashed pumpkins to toilet paper – all minor but all destructive.
“All Hallows’ Eve is known for pranks, and the numbers suggest the reputation is well-earned,” according to a NerdWallet article titled “Halloween Is No. 1 Day for Free Candy – and Property Crime.” “Claims due to vandalism and malicious mischief make up 19% of total Halloween property crime claims.”
Theft occurs in the form of burglaries, which spike on Halloween and account for 60 percent of all Halloween-related crimes. But burglaries are not limited to homes.
Though most of us and our children will walk the streets in search of candy this Halloween, some unscrupulous individuals have their desires set more on cell phones left in cars, computers in houses and valuables left around the house. However, property crimes away from home account for 21% of thefts.
Most vandalism involves vehicles. Eggs to paint. Crowbars to windows. Knives to tires. And hood ornaments and license plates stolen.
“As Americans carve pumpkins and stock up on candy ahead of Halloween, they also might want to think about finding a secure place to park their cars,” states an article by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute titled “Vehicle vandalism peaks on Halloween with nearly twice as many claims as usual.” “Personal vehicles are almost twice as likely to be vandalized on Oct. 31 as on an average day….”
Besides taking note, consumers should take proper precautions. Here are things that can be done to prevent becoming a victim during the Fall festival of fright.
- Make the house appear as if someone is home, which is to say awake, bright and secure.
- Install a motion-detector light or, for more protection, a floodlight.
- Consider the use of blinds, curtains and drapes and be strategic about it. A closed-up house signals it is empty. A completely opened-up house reveals valuables. So, the answer probably is somewhere between.
- Keep indoor lights on, particularly bathroom and bedroom lights.
- Keep pets indoors to reduce their stress level and to protect them and others from harm.
- Lock doors, fences, gates and windows.
- To lessen the temptation for thieves, stash things like bicycles, grills, outdoor furniture, potted plants and yard art in a garage, shed or storage unit.
- Park vehicles in the garage. If you must leave them out, take out valuables and set the alarm.
- Invest in a home-security system.
- Set up a neighborhood watch group to keep property and trick-or-treaters safe.
“Halloween brings a lot of knocks at the door, mostly from adorable children looking for a treat, but don’t take that for granted,” states a blog by Crime Prevention Security Systems titled “7 Tips to Secure Your Home for Halloween.” “Opening the door without proper caution could put you at risk for home invasion; the most dangerous form of break-in. Always look through your door’s peephole to assess the safety before opening the door.
“Looking through the peephole is good but checking out porch visitors via a home security camera is even better,” according to the blog. “Quality security cameras often provide a better view and can be checked from the comfort of your couch (or practically anywhere else in the world) via smartphone. That reduces the likelihood you’ll be injured if crooks force open the door, and it allows you more time to get to safety in the event of a home invasion.”
“Vandals are less likely to do their dirty work out in the open, so park in well-populated areas whenever possible,” Mercury Insurance posts in an article titled “Protect Your Vehicle from Halloween Vandalism.” “If you’re attending a Halloween party in an unfamiliar neighborhood, ask the host for recommendations on safe places to park.”
Halloween is intended to be fun…do what you can to keep it that way.