Goblins, goons and glow sticks
WORTHINGTON -- It was a dark and scary night, full of goblins, vampires, villains and the occasional princess or superhero.
But one truly inspired idea helped keep the dark at bay when the frightening little people hit the streets -- many of them accepted the gift of a free glow stick, courtesy of the Worthington Police Department and a spark of brilliance by officer Jacki Dawson.
"I love Halloween," she stated as she stuffed a bag full of glow sticks into the back seat of her squad car, preparing to hit the streets. "I used to hand out candy, but this is safer."
She had brought her idea to Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey, who approved the purchase of the glow sticks. On Halloween night, she and other officers on duty handed them out to the trick or treaters, who received them with glee.
"Look at them all glowing!" she said as a batch of kids and their parents headed off down the street, away from where she had parked her car and handed out some sticks. "That will sure make them easier to see."
Halloween night can be a tricky time for law enforcement because of the shear amount of children who take to the streets, crossing back and forth and often running on to the next house fueled by the excitement of the evening.
A parent with two or three kids can easily get distracted and lose sight of a child just for a moment, but as any law enforcement officer knows, a moment can be just long enough for something bad to happen.
"I see Halloween as a fun time, but I still have a job to do," Dawson commented during a lull in the hoards of kids that mobbed her on more than on occasion. "I love to be out here seeing the costumes and teasing with the kids, but if a call comes in, I have to go."
On Friday evening, "no tolerance" was the rule -- a rule reiterated by Sgt. Tim Gaul over the radio.
"We have to be a lot stricter about traffic laws tonight," Dawson explained. "Every child is out and about, juveniles can be up to no good, adults can be out drinking and everyone's identity can be concealed. People can get crazy on holidays, and it is our job to keep the residents of this city safe."
Patrolling the streets, she smiled with satisfaction to see the groups of glowing trick or treaters. Dawson admitted she loved handing out the sticks, but believes there was more than one benefit to doing so. Not only were the kids --and some parents -- lit up for safety, but any child who may have been afraid to approach a police officer had just learned that officers smile, tease about a fun costume and are not nearly as scary as some of the goblins and monsters walking around that evening.
As Dawson went off shift at 9 p.m., Officer Ted Buhner was just beginning his night at work.
Mention of the "no tolerance" rule from Gaul came over the radios at shift change, a reminder for patrol officers to be extra vigilant.
"We'll be looking for more residential traffic violations," Buhner stated. "Cars flying around corners, things like that. I don't expect much as far as problems with kids, but we will keep an eye on things."
Because Halloween landed on a Friday this year, emphasis was also on watching the goings-on at local bars.
"Just like on any holiday, we want to be extra visible," Buhner explained. "And if someone needs help, we're there."
As the hour grew later and the glowing children disappeared into their homes, a few reports filtered in of mischief that may have been the acts of youths more interested in tricks than treats.
A woman unnerved by people on her doorstep late at night, a car that had been pelted with paint balls, a house that had been egged. Officers reminded several drivers who had been picking up and dropping off kids to turn their lights on, and cautioned a few people to walk on sidewalks and not the roads.
Things had calmed down considerably, but as the officers drove the city streets, the radio would occasionally sputter to life and send one or more squad cars rushing to a call. A child who hadn't come home yet, an argument at a bar, a report of a group about to fight.
By the end of the shift, there had been citations for driving after revocation, arrests for drunk drivers and disorderly conduct and two reports of assault -- typical Friday night complaints, each one taken seriously and followed up on as much as possible.
"People get carried away sometimes, especially on a night when it is not just a normal weekend," Buhner commented. "We still try to stop the same problems from happening and keep everyone as safe as we can."