Since Trick-or-Treating mostly involves small children, and they and their escorts will be walking on the streets and sidewalks when it is dark, it's a good idea for parents, homeowners and motorists to exercise a higher awareness of safety and security. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old adage goes.

For Trick-or-Treaters

• Young children should always go trick-or-treating with an adult and older children should never trick-or-treat alone.

• Be careful crossing the streets; cross at the corner and be sure to look both ways.

• Stay to the side of the street or, where possible, on a sidewalk.

• Visit only homes you know.

• Do not eat candy that has not been inspected by a trusted adult, and do not eat any homemade treats or unpackaged foods like fruit.

• Never cut across yards or use alleys as short cuts.

• Never accept food or drink from strangers.

• Never enter a stranger's home or car.

• Only visit well-lit homes.

• Carry a flashlight.

• Make sure your costume has something reflective on it so you're visible to passing motorists, that is short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement and contact with flames, and that it is flame resistant. Remember to "Stop, Drop and Roll" if your costume catches fire.

• Carry with you your emergency contact information.

• Obey traffic signals.

• Do not trick-or-treat past 8 p.m.

When Giving Candy

• Offer only wrapped or packaged candy.

• Never give homemade treats. Not only are the ingredients not listed — a threat to children with food allergies — but parents are skeptical of these. Also, stay away from unpackaged foods like fruit.

• Remember that children are going to get A LOT of candy. Don't forget other possible gifts like crazy pencils, one-serving cereal boxes, stickers — and tooth paste!

• Keep your lights on if you're participating and be sure to clear a safe path for trick-or-treaters. Remove items such as hoses and wet leaves to prevent falling and injury.

When Inspecting Candy

• Use your best judgment. Do not let children eat any homemade treats or unpackaged items.

• Make sure candy is tightly wrapped. If it looks like it was unwrapped and then re-wrapped, don't let your children eat it.

• Use caution, but not paranoia.

• When in doubt, throw it out.

• In some counties, the Sheriff's Office will scan your Halloween Haul using their X-Ray system. Contact your local office for more details: Calvert: 410-535-2800; Charles: 301-932-2222; St. Mary's: 301-475-8008.

• If you believe your candy has been tampered with, call your Sheriff's Office.

• Parents should also know some occurrences that raise questions about the quality of confectionary products are in fact normal, according to the National Confectioners Association. For example, what appears to be glass may just be large sugar or salt crystals. Graying chocolate that resembles a light powder may be caused by exposure to heat or dampness. The association publishes a complete list of these occurrences on its Web site, Such appearances should not be cause for concern but parents are urged to use their discretion. Suspicious candy should be reported to your Sheriff's Office.

For Motorists

• Be cognizant of trick-or-treaters, pedestrians and pets as you drive through residential areas.

• Stop at all crosswalks.

• Remember, the posted speed limit is 25 mph through most residential areas, but that doesn't mean you must drive that fast. Slow down, especially in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic.

• As always, don't drink and drive.
All safety tips courtesy of the Charles County Sheriff's Office.

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