SIKESTON - With questions about the economy and the threat of war still looming, there is uncertainty in just about everything.
But it hasn't seemed to deter Americans from celebrating Halloween.
According to the latest National Retail Federation Halloween survey, consumers say they plan to spend an estimated $44 per household this year on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations, an amount that is not far from last year when consumers said they would spend $45.
Still, law enforcement officials urge everyone to keep safety in mind as they celebrate this holiday. Each year many youngsters are needlessly injured. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly four times as many children aged 5-14 are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year.
"There is no reason why Halloween can't be both great fun and injury free, but only if parents and caregivers know what can go wrong and what they can do to prevent injury," said Jack Gillis, spokesperson for SafeChild.net.
To begin with, keep costumes short to prevent tripping and consider make-up rather than masks. Masks can make it difficult for children to see oncoming traffic.
Lorya Knox with the Sikeston Department Public Safety encourages youngsters to wear light-colored clothing or add reflective tape to dark costumes to make them visible. Flame-resistant costumes are best.
Troop E's Lt. Jim McNiell encouraged children to go trick-or-treating in groups and to plan the entire route, making sure family members know what it is. Carry a flashlight, he added.
"Adults should walk up to the door with young children as they are going through the pleasantries of trick-or-treating," McNiell said. "I think parents always have a responsibility to maintain a presence with them on Halloween night."
Keeping homes Halloween safe is also important. Clear the yard of hazards that can trip young children such as ladders, flowerpots and children's toys.
Trick-or-treaters, especially young ones, are urged to do so while it is light outside. If they go out later, they should take a flashlight along.
Knox advised youths to approach only familiar houses that have their lights on, and never enter a stranger's house or vehicle.
"If there's no porch light on or the front door's not opened, don't go to that house," agreed McNiell. "There should be some kind of lighted pumpkin or something telling you they are giving out candy and if there is not, you're basically uninvited and that could pose a threat."
When handing out treats at home, make sure the goodies are well wrapped. Consider handing out pencils, pens, erasers, small party favors, etc. instead of candy.
"Don't take fruit from anyone unless it's from friends or relatives," cautioned Knox.
McNiell urged parents to remind their own trick-or-treaters to wait until they return home to sample treats. That way, an adult will be able to check treats for evidence of tampering.
"We don't have too many incidents around here but there could be a few who try to ruin it for everyone," he said.
"Children should stay on the sidewalk," McNiell cautioned. "Don't run across the street, stop, look both ways and don't run out from behind parked cars. Motorists need to watch out for them because they're excited about filling up their bags and they're going to make foolish mistakes. Just take your time and expect the unexpected."