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See Halloween in a positive light

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Mady Bixby, 9 of Adrian, shows her beautiful smile used to get treats at the Halloween Walk Saturday night at Pioneer Village in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington Police Officer Jacki Dawson is helping kids see the police department in a positive light.

It's a silly pun, but one that makes perfectly good sense. For the fourth year, Dawson will be handing out glow sticks to kids during Halloween trick or treating tonight.

"I hand out about 400 of them a year," she said.

In the past few years, trick or treaters have come to expect seeing Dawson in the Smith Avenue area on Halloween with her supply of glow sticks.

"Kids and parents love it," Dawson said. "Glow sticks are cool, and the parents attach them to the kids' costumes or put them in their candy bucket. It makes them much more visible."

In 2007, Dawson was scheduled to work on Halloween night, so she purchased some candy and handed it out to kids as she patrolled the streets of Worthington. It didn't take long for the candy to run out, so she ended up heading to a store for more. When her superior officers found out she had paid for all the goodies herself, they offered to foot the bill for the next year's trick or treat session, and asked her to come up with a good idea for something besides candy to hand out.

"Why not glow sticks?" she asked.

Halloween is about getting candy, but it doesn't have to be limited to that, she explained. Glowing green, yellow or orange sticks make the trick or treaters easier to spot, and gives them a little light on a dark October evening.

After several years of handing out the glow sticks, some of the same kids she sees each year on Halloween approach her other times of the year to chat or say hi. She tells them all to look for her on Halloween.

"And they do," she said. "They run up to me and remind me about conversation we had earlier in the year."

She does have one strict rule, she said. To get a glow stick, trick or treaters have to be wearing a costume.

Carrying a glow stick or flash light is just one of the safety tips Dawson suggests for trick or treating. She and McGruff the Crime Dog want children to go trick or treating with an adult or older sibling and to make sure costumes don't impede movement or sight.

"Do not eat anything that is unwrapped," Dawson recommended. "Have your parents look over your candy."

People handing out treats are advised to turn their porch or front door light on, so kids know who is participating. Also, so they don't trip over any outside decorations.

Trick or treaters should never go to homes that don't have lights on, she said, and need to be careful about running out into streets. On the flip side, Dawson warned motorists to be extra careful on Halloween.

"Be extra cautious, and expect someone to run out in front of the car. Don't just prepare for it -- expect it," she said. "Kids get excited."

Because Halloween can be known as a night for mischief, Dawson said people need to be very aware of what is going on around them. If you see something suspicious, let law enforcement know. Granted, there will be ghosts and goblins aplenty, but don't use that as an excuse to brush off something that would normally put you on high alert.

"Don't hesitate to call the police," she reminded.

Adult partygoers need to be careful about wearing a costume while driving -- be sure masks are off and whatever costume you choose doesn't impair your ability to drive.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, last year at Halloween, authorities in Minnesota arrested a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a French maid and Jeanie from the TV show "I Dream of Jeanie" for driving while impaired. Worthington Police Captain Chris Dybevick said he once saw an elf, complete with curly-toes shoes, arrested and jailed for driving while impaired.

"Like on any other night, just don't drink and drive," Dawson said.

McGruff recommends parents choose costumes that are flame-retardant and stay in familiar neighborhoods on a planned route. A discussion of basic pedestrian rules before leaving the house is a good idea, and make sure children know their home address and phone number in case anyone gets separated.

"After 9 p.m., no one should be out ringing doorbells or trick or treating," Dawson said. "People have school and work the next day."