31 Oct 2007

Trick or Treat?

BBC Magazine: Trick or treating is against every rule in the parent handbook, and in a new monthly column on family life, one writer says the biggest fright is what kids expect of Halloween today. The writer goes on to ask; should we be encouraging them? Is it harmless fun or an irritating excuse to annoy the neighbours?
The subject is one that has always annoyed me no end in fact, a lot of things 'imported' into our society from the USA tend to get my back up. The comments posted to the article are mostly balanced however, the online poll comes out strongly against this pseudo tradition with over 75% of respondents against it.
Now I'm no 'party pooper' and, I don't have any great objection to little kids having fun, many of whom go to a great effort with their parents to make costumes and then call at houses with their parents and, are genuinely grateful for the fruit or sweets they receive. What I do object to is the enterprising teenage urchins who see it as a prime opportunity to demand money with menaces... Money they subsequently use for the purchase of fags and booze! Trick or Treat has gone the same way as the Mischief Night tradition in that, it is often little more than an excuse to disguise anti social behaviour and/or criminal activity.
The question is how do you differentiate between the two types and, how do you actually deal with the none desirable elements? Firstly, as the saying goes, prevention is often better than cure and, with this in mind our force has produced the NYP 'No Callers' Poster to stick on your front door. Will this dissuade the older pretenders? Probably not, I expect it is more likely to dissuade the ones who are not actually the problem i.e. the little ones with parents in tow.
The first filter process at our house is based upon age and parental guidance i.e small child accompanied by their parents are OK and children under teenage years are also fine, as long as it's before 7pm. Outside these criteria most callers will receive short shrift however, that leaves you with another problem? What repercussions will there be if you send the teenage kids away with a flea in their ear? Will your property be damaged, will your car be vandalised?
Obviously close neighbours know what I do for a living so the local older kids tend to keep clear and those from further afield are offered 'advice'. This is by no means a guarantee of your property remaining in tact. A predicament that nobody should have to endure, even a fit able bodied copper, not to mention the infirm sweet little old lady who is scared out of her whits every time someone knocks at the door!
Alf says: Due to degradation of standards in our society and a total lack of consideration for other humans, perhaps it's time to stop this stupid practice once and for all. It is not and never has been a 'British Tradition'. However, I would stop short of the normal British methodology of today i.e. introduction of even more legislation. Cessation of the practice can be achieved by education and advice but it will take time. Let's start by not encouraging or supporting the practice, unless the kids are under 10 and/or accompanied by their parents!

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