Halloween: Threats and Hazards
Not just stomach aches and future cavities...
Back in the day, Halloween mischief makers would be limited to minor vandalism (i.e., toilet-papering and egg-throwing) and the occasional auto-pedestrian accidents for those who failed to wear reflective clothing or carry a flashlight. However, I do remember, as a kid, not being able to eat any of the candy I collected until my parents checked it all out. They would use the excuse that they didn’t want me to gorge on all that candy in one sitting (or my walking around, standing in one place, etc.), but we kids all knew there was a chance we had a bad neighbor somewhere, who was up to no good by adulterating the treats with razor blades or sleeping pills. In some parts of the county, the day before Halloween (October 30th) also brings threats and hazards. In New Jersey, it’s called “Mischief Night,” and in Michigan, it’s called “Devil’s Night.” In the 1980s in Detroit, they would have hundreds of arson house fires year after year on the days leading up to Halloween.
Certainly, those additional law enforcement-type threats include trespassing and vandalism at cemeteries/graveyards and even the “creepy-clown” sightings near schools. I want to highlight two more insidious threats that bear repeating and move more toward the concept of Evil.
Please supervise your kids – no matter how old they are
The world out there can be a pretty scary place every day of the year now. And I believe two colliding threats have now come out of the pandemic:
Families have been “cooped” up for too long and yearn for the days when their kids could run rampant through their neighborhoods, as they did before 2020. And wearing a mask in public meant something else. So there will be more unaccompanied minors out this year than before.
Others have also suppressed their emotions during COVID-19. But for them, it is their own fears, rage, and evil for that same time cooped up at home – and now they feel compelled to act out through violence, threats, and anger. It is an adverse mental health powder keg waiting to be ignited.
This will translate to more children trick-or-treating and more people disgruntled in the world – potentially meeting each other right in our neighborhoods. Even if you are going to take a leisurely stroll around your own block or two this Halloween – and perhaps some distance back from your teenagers or younger – it is important to be vigilant and present.
Everyone should be better prepared for Vehicle-Borne Attacks
In 2021, I wrote a generic piece on vehicle-borne attacks for the National Security Policy and Analysis Organization. Whether deliberate attacks or terrible accidents, any larger group of people on the streets or in open public spaces - where cars and trucks can get to them - are subject to vehicle-borne attacks. We have recently seen in the U.S. a parade attack in Wisconsin in 2021 and the Halloween day truck attack in New York City in 2017. And emergency management intelligence analysts know anniversaries can generate copycat new attacks, especially against less-protected, higher visibility targets. For these threats and hazards, it takes more than vigilance – it takes a proactive set of actions toward crime prevention through environmental design. The government must add those physical barriers to entry, and the public must insist on them.
I imagine many emergency managers hope to breathe a sigh of relief come November 1st each year, but hope is not a plan. Everyone needs to be more disaster resilient – especially for the holidays.