By Joe Beck
The communities of the Northern Shenandoah Valley have been safe places to go trick-or-treating in recent years, but area police remain wary and are issuing public safety tips to parents and children.
Police forces in Winchester, Woodstock, Front Royal and Strasburg are planning extra patrols for Halloween and are circulating advice on websites and Facebook pages on proper costumes, navigating traffic and ensuring candy is safe.
The Front Royal website warns that it is "inappropriate" for anyone 16 years old and older to wear a mask. Police are asking all trick-or-treaters to be off the streets by 9 p.m. Thursday.
The Winchester police will be holding a "Public Safety Trick-or-Treating" from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Shawnee Fire Company on Valor Drive Games, prizes and other entertainment are planned. In a news release, the department also urged adults attending Halloween parties to call a cab or designate a driver before going home.
Other law enforcement sources spoke of the need to wear reflective costumes that can be seen easily in the dark.
"Obviously, we want children to go out with a parent or legal guardian," Woodstock Chief Eric Reiley said. "They should wear reflective clothing. Before eating candy, have an adult or guardian check it."
Reiley said his department will be putting up additional safety tips on its Facebook page.
He said officers from his department will be handing out glow sticks for kids on Halloween night.
Chief Tim Sutherly of Strasburg said his department will be "out in force like always but try to stay with your kids during trick-or-treating."
"Reflective costumes are best and no unwrapped candy," Sutherly advised.
No one interviewed reported any recent trick-or-treat related crimes in their communities, but Sutherly said he took a precautionary measure against a man who was asking children for their addresses before giving them candy.
"I don't know what it was that he was doing, but we posted an officer at the end of his driveway to warn parents he was doing that," Sutherly said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com