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>Is it time for a Halloween curfew in Ridgewood?

>Halloween curfew continues promoting safety

By Lara Webb Barrett

For My Community Trend

To ensure everyone has a safe, fun holiday, Merchantville has had a Halloween curfew in place for children under age 18 for the past few years.

Now a crime prevention officer, Sgt. Fred Koehler was a police officer in Merchantville for 25 years and said there is much good to come from the Halloween curfew ordinance.

The ordinance, which is posted on the Merchantville Borough Web site, mandates that children be indoors by 7 p.m. from Oct. 29 to 31.

“The curfew has been on the books for some time now, and was adopted in 2003,” Koehler said.

Koehler discussed the reasons for implementing the curfew.

“First and foremost is the safety of the younger kids and getting them off the street,” said Koehler. “In addition, we want to keep the older kids off the street; in previous years, many had been coming in from out of town.”

The curfew also serves to deter Halloween-time pranks like egg throwing and other vandalism.

“Our curfew extends to cover the Wednesday and Thursday night prior to Halloween, especially pertaining to the older kids, for Mischief Night,” Koehler said. “Camden had a very bad Mischief Night in the past, and since we are so close to Camden, we don’t want to have a similar problem.”

Thanks to the curfew, Koehler said that Merchantville has had minimal vandalism on Mischief Night, or the night before Halloween.

“We used to have problems with vandalism — and it’s decreased dramatically,” said Koehler. “You may see toilet paper in the trees here and there, which washes away with the rain. All other vandalism has been greatly curtailed.”

According to Koehler, the curfew is popular with area homeowners.

“The parents also like the curfew, because they can turn their lights off at 7 p.m., and if they hear someone outside or in their yard, they can have the police check them out — and our residents don’t feel like they are intruding,” he said. “I have had nothing but compliments from parents on the curfew ordinance.”

Children’s safety as they trick-or-treat remains a top priority for the curfew.

In addition to having parents check through Halloween treats, Koehler offers 10 tips to help make Halloween even safer for all children:

1. Keep front doors and walkways illuminated.

2. Remove any item from your yard or porch which can be easily broken or taken, such as pumpkins and milk cans.

3. Make sure all doors and windows are locked.

4. Use your “peephole” to see who is there before you open the door.

5. Younger children should trick-or-treat during daylight hours under adult or older child supervision.
If no adult or other children are available, try to have them go with a group of children to a specific location.

6. Do not allow children to go into homes of people they don’t know.

7. Warn your children about strangers and accepting gifts or candy from people on the street.

8. If your child encounters a stranger or is accosted in any manner, report it immediately to the police.

9. When entertaining trick-or-treaters, try to recognize who you are giving candy to.
If you can’t recognize the individual or feel uncomfortable, do not feel obliged to open the door or give them candy.

10. Be suspicious of older children who come to your home more than once. They may be casing your house.
Koehler urges that parents can never be too cautious, or use too much common sense.

“If a child brings home, say, a Milky Way bar that seems to have a hole in it or a tear, throw it away,” said Koehler. “The same with fresh fruits — inspect it, and if parents want to give it to them, cut it open to make sure there is nothing inside.”

“If in doubt, throw it out,” Koehler added. “You can always go to the grocery store to buy them candy or fruit that you feel is safe.”

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