Going to Jail for Trick-or-Treating?!

By: Malena Esposito

Chances are, if you’re in high school or college, you probably aren’t worried about what you’ll be dressing up as for Halloween this year. Maybe you’ll go to a party or hand out candy for the kids next-door, but heading to Party City to get the newest Candy Corn Witch costume before they sell out is definitely not a top priority anymore. However, if you’re an elementary or middle schooler, a parent, or even a ninth grader, the “big decision” is definitely creeping around the corner.

That being said, regardless of your age, most towns welcome trick-or-treaters, even if they’re old enough to have a license. Yet, unusually enough, not every neighborhood can say the same. In fact, many cities have age limits and time restrictions for trick-or-treaters. Several punish those who break their abnormal orders, and others even go as far using jail time as a punishment.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, trick-or-treaters must be eleven or under, and anyone older can be charged with a misdemeanor. Those convicted of breaking the local law can receive six months of jail time and/or a fine ranging from $25-100. Chesapeake also bans all trick-or-treating after 8pm for any age. Those convicted of breaking this local law can receive up to one month in jail or a fine ranging from $10-100 dollars.

It doesn’t stop there, though. In Newport, Virginia, in addition to the age limit, the town also prohibits all parents of trick-or-treaters from wearing masks. Likewise, other Virginia cities such as Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach institute similar restrictions.

But it’s not just Virginia, either. An alarming amount of neighborhoods try to put a damper on the Halloween spirit, whether it’s New Jersey, North Carolina, or even Canada.

However, when asked about the laws, most city officials say it’s not enforced, that no one has been arrested for the “crime,” or that they don’t go asking kids how old they are in the first place. Rather, most city officials just care about the safety of the community.

While that may seem great if you’re 13 and just want some extra candy, it makes the whole thing kind of redundant. I understand the safety aspect, I really do, but in my opinion, a 10-year-old is just as likely to go smashing pumpkins on porches as a 14-year-old is.

Whether it’s smashing pumpkins, toilet papering houses, chasing other kids, ding-dong ditching, or stealing candy, that kind of behavior really comes down to how the children were raised and not how old they are.

Honestly, it’s kind of ageist to assume that just because someone is a teenager means that they’ll wreak havoc on Halloween as soon as they blow their candles out. A police officer for the Norfolk PD even said “I can assure you that [we’re] not going to go around arresting children for trick-or-treating. They shouldn’t fear if they’re 13 years old that they’re going to be put in jail—that is not the case.” Okay…then why even bother? Why implement a law if you aren’t going to enforce it?

It’s a waste of time for everyone involved—the people that made it, the people that are supposed to administer it, and the parents that have to worry if their kids are going to be arrested.

If I was the parent of a teenager, I would much rather have them go around asking for candy than going to a party doing who knows what. Not to say that partying is bad, but if you’re 14-15 years old, then there’s definitely a lesser of the two evils.

And let’s say parents do enforce this rule, even if officers don’t. Most eighth and ninth graders don’t go out drinking with their friends on Halloween night, and if they can’t go trick-or-treating, what are their options?

These rules are decades old, and it’s time for a change. Entire towns shouldn’t discriminate based on age, and they definitely shouldn’t discriminate children. Let them have fun, and don’t let a couple mischief makers ruin it for everyone.



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