Operation Lights Out aims to protect kids from predators on Halloween

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Trick-or-treaters will be out in full force this weekend, but how do you know you can trust the person on the other side of the door?

There are 210 sex offenders registered in New Hanover County. Parents need to take extra precaution this weekend to make sure their kids don’t knock on the wrong door.

Probation and parole officers are trying to keep kids safe this Halloween with their annual initiative Operation Lights Out. The idea is to keep trick-or-treaters from walking up to a sex offender’s house.

“The offenders are aware,” chief probation/parole officer India Winborne said. “They’ve already been briefed on what they need to do. They are aware that they’re supposed to be home on that night. The lights are not supposed to be on on the front porch. They’re not supposed to be participating in the trick or treat event.”

Probation and parole officers will make the rounds to be sure the offenders are following the rules.

“We are going to knock on their doors. Hopefully they will not answer the door, and then we will call them and let them know we’re at the door,” Winborne said.

But parents still have concerns.

“Just because you have your lights off doesn’t mean you’re not going to participate,” Rouenia Williams said. “You still may have people out there that may want to dress up in costumes themselves.”

Parents should search the sex offender registry online before trick or treating so they know which houses to avoid. And only go to people’s homes your family knows.

Williams says kids’ safety is ultimately the parents responsibility.

“The only thing I can do is go out there with them, you know, that’s the only way you can be safe and cautious because right now everybody can look like a normal person but you never know what people’s ulterior motives are,” she said.

Operation Lights Out is only on Sunday, so if your kids plan on doing any trick or treating on Saturday night, make sure you go with them.


Tips for Parents

On average, twice as many kids are killed in pedestrian/vehicle incidents on Halloween as compared to other days of the year. Pedestrian safety is not just the responsibility of the driver, however, parents can do their part to help kids stay out of the emergency room on Halloween by emphasizing safe pedestrian behaviors before they go out trick-or-treating.
• Cross streets safely. Children under 12 should trick-or-treat and cross streets with an adult. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
• Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don’t run, across the street.
• Pedestrians should try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
• Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
• Parents should remind children to be safe pedestrians around cars. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
• Children should not be alone at night without adult supervision if they are under the age of 12. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit.

Kids will be out while it is dark – making it harder for drivers to see them. This lack of visibility makes it important for drivers to slow down and watch out for trick-or-treaters, especially around crosswalks. Parents should remember that costumes can be both creative and safe.
• Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
• Choose face paint and make-up whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
• Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better, as well as be seen by drivers.

While pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should also be careful when dealing with candy and costumes.
• Check treats for signs of tampering before children are allowed to eat them. Remind children to only eat treats in original, unopened wrappers. Candy should be thrown away if the wrapper is faded or torn, or if the candy is unwrapped.
• While glow sticks are good for visibility, remember that the liquid in glow sticks is also hazardous, so parents should remind children not to chew on or break them.
• Look for non-toxic designations when choosing Halloween makeup.

Tips for Drivers

Drivers need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm. Safe Kids Cape Fear and FedEx caution motorists to be extra careful this Halloween.
• Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
• Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
• Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
• Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
• Drive more slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and be sure to drive with your full headlights on so you can spot children from greater distances.
• Remember that costumes can limit children’s visibility and they may not be able to see your vehicle.

Additional Pedestrian Statistics

• In 2009, there were a total of 244 pedestrian fatalities in the 14- and -younger age group.
• From 2000 to 2009, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the 14- and -younger age group decreased by about 49 percent, with the 4- to 7-year-old age group showing the largest decrease (58 percent).
• Nearly two thirds of all childhood pedestrian deaths are among males.
• Seventy-four percent of the pedestrian fatalities among the 14- and -younger age group occurred at non-intersection locations.
• According to U.S. injury statistics, African-American children, male children, children living in high density areas and children residing in low-income households are most at-risk for pedestrian-related injuries.
• 1 in 3 child pedestrian deaths occur between 3 and 7 p.m.
• 4 out of 5 driveway-related incidents occur to children ages 4 and under.

Categories: New Hanover

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