Well, Saturday is Halloween, ladies and gentlemen, the time when kids traditionally dress up in scary costumes and go house to house soliciting candy, and all I can say is ... Boo!
Yes: Boo. If you are a red-blooded American citizen, this is the time of the year to be scared out of your wits. And I’m not talking about ghosts and witches. I’m talking about demons far more frightening than those old-timers.
First of all there is the danger that some incredibly malevolent neighbor will put razor blades or needles into candy so as to puncture or lacerate your child’s digestive tract, and just think of that.
The Web site associatedcontent.com urges you to “check every piece of candy they have collected,” meaning your children. And if that’s too much of a job for you, “this is where local hospitals come in handy … you can take your piles of candy to their X-ray department and have it checked free of charge.”
Imagine yourself, a sober modern American, trucking down to your local hospital with a sack of Tootsie Rolls, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Three Musketeer bars, with your adorable little ghosts and goblins in tow, and asking a technician to fire up a $100,000 piece of equipment so he can scan your trove of sugary fat and make sure it’s safe for your little ones to eat.
Actually, hospitals don’t do that anymore, if they ever did.
Both Ellis Hospital and Albany Med told me they don’t provide any such service. Other local hospitals didn’t get back to me.
In any event, the danger is largely imaginary. The rumor-checking Web site snopes.com reported research on “80 cases of sharp objects in food incidents since 1959, and almost all were hoaxes,” mostly perpetrated by kids to spook other kids or their parents.
It’s “essentially an urban legend,” Snopes said, noting that the tales of needles and razor blades began to supplant rumors of poison in candy in the mid-1960s.
According to Benjamin Radford, editor of Skeptical Inquirer, “Children are in far more danger of being hit by a car on a dark street.”
But if it’s not razor blades in candy bars, then it’s something far more terrifying, something that really has us by the national throat, and I refer now to sex offenders.
Yes. Just imagine your little ghosts and goblins ringing a doorbell and innocently declaring “trick or treat,” only to be welcomed inside by a sex monster, perhaps cunningly dressed as Mother Goose and waving a bag of goodies before him.
Oh, horrors at the very thought!
Thank the lord our public officials are alert to this supposed danger and are doing something about it.
In some states, registered sex offenders are required to post “NO CANDY” signs on their doors, and in a couple of places they have been required to spend the evening under watch in some place like an auditorium.
Here in New York the state Parole Division is imposing a curfew on paroled sex offenders from early afternoon on Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday, and has ordered that offenders “are not to participate in any Halloween activity; not permited to wear any costume, mask or other disguise; and cannot open the door to any minors who are trick-or-treating.” Parole officers will make “unannounced home visits” to see that these conditions are met.
In Schenectady the local police will team up with the parole officers on the visits. “Additionally, a list of Level 3 offenders will be distributed at line-up to patrol officers for additional monitoring,” I am advised by a police spokesman.
Nationally, a technology company in Houston, Texas, thoughtfully sells an “app” called Offender Locator that you can download to your iPhone, “which quickly and accurately pinpoints sexual offenders in any neighborhood.” The company is specifically promoting the application for Halloween, which it calls “a prime time for sexual predators.”
All this is very well except that the sex-monster danger is even less real than the razor-blade danger. Research by Jill Levenson, a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton, La., turned up no increase in sex crimes against children at Halloween but found instead that sex crimes of all sorts increase in the summer.
Radford, of the Skeptical Inquirer, says, “In fact, there has not been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating.”
It’s just the lurid imagination of adults, who see sexual predators hiding behind masks in order to lure their children to ruin, just as they see them hiding behind bushes at the schoolyard the rest of the year. What else can it be that prompts parole officials to forbid offenders to wear “any costume, mask or other disguise”?
But what the hey, people like to be scared, I guess, and Halloween is the officially approved time for it. Really, though, shouldn’t it be adults who are out on the street playing ghosts and goblins, getting their scary thrills, and the children who look on indulgently?
Sheriff and under
As for the Schenectady County sheriff’s race, the Conservative and Democratic candidate, Dom Dagostino, says if he is elected he will not — repeat, not — appoint the city PBA president, Bob Hamilton, to be his undersheriff.
This was in response to my having said in a recent column that that’s what he would do, as I had been told by multiple sources.
“I will not do so and there has never been any discussion in that regard,” Dagostino said in a written statement. “In fact months ago I asked Gordon Pollard, the highly respected Undersheriff named by Harry Buffardi to remain in the role indefinitely should I be elected. And he agreed.”
As for Dagostino’s recorded phone call to voters saying he is proud to have the support of the former sheriff, Harry Buffardi: “I wouldn’t call it inaccurate,” Buffardi says. “I’d like not to get involved in the campaign, but I am a Democrat, and I declared my confidence he would do a good job. But I like Joe Lazzari too,” referring to the Republican and Independence Party candidate.