Josephine Harmon takes Rocky, a 4-month -old dachshund dressed

– If there’s one holiday that signifies the changing times in
America, it might be Halloween.
GILROY – If there’s one holiday that signifies the changing times in America, it might be Halloween.

With snipers, child abductions and terrorist plots dominating the headlines during the past few months, parents have plenty to worry about surrounding their children’s safety, even in a community like Gilroy, long reputed for its togetherness, according to local law enforcement officials.

A reflection of this trend is the rise in popularity in “safe Halloween” events, such as the one that organizers expect to draw 1,550 local would-be ghosts, goblins and ghouls to the Gilroy Premium Outlets to do their trick-or-treating.

“We encourage families to bring their kids here because we have found that in the past few years people are more reluctant to let their kids trick-or-treat in their neighborhoods,” said Rachel Muñoz, a community service officer with the Gilroy Police Department’s Neighborhood Resource Unit. “Because the candy is coming from the stores and there is a strong presence of police, highway patrol and firefighters it creates an atmosphere where parents and kids feel safe, and can focus more on having fun than watching out for strangers all the time.”

This will be the second year for the city’s Halloween gala at the Outlets. Members of the local police, highway patrol, fire department and several other community organizations will be on hand to escort kids and their parents to the more than 60 retail stores that will be handing out candy.

The Gilroy Youth Center will also be hosting a haunted house and other Halloween events throughout the afternoon and evening.

Muñoz stressed the importance of parents being aware of safety this Halloween, but also realized the importance of balancing the bottom line when it comes to kids on the last day in October: candy.

“In a short time kids come out with pounds of candy,” Muñoz said of the event at the Outlets. “If they want more, they can always go back out in the own neighborhoods when they get back home.”

Not wanting to scare kids from the doorsteps of their own neighborhoods, Muñoz acknowledges that “it’s only 1 percent” of people that need to be worried about.

Rosa Quinones, a corporal with the Gilroy Police Department, said it is important for parents to prepare their kids for a safe Halloween, not assuming an entire neighborhood is safe because it’s a new development with large houses.

“It’s important for parents to go with the kids to the neighborhoods they know,” said Quinones, who is planning to escort her young children trick-or-treating Thursday. “I grew up in Hollister, and when I was little we would go from one end of town to the other, but now there’s so many new people moving to the area you never know who you are dealing with.”

For more information on the Gilroy Premium Outlet event from 4 to 6:30 p.m., call Rachel Muñoz at 846-6372, for more information on the Youth Center Halloween activities call 848-1675.

Trick-or-treat tips

• Select costumes, masks and wigs that are made of flame-retardant materials.

• Pin up long costumes to prevent tripping.

• Use makeup instead of a mask.

• To be seen easily, costumes should be made of a light colored material.

• Plan the trick-or treat route ahead of time selecting well-lighted streets.

• Accompany children or arrange for children to go in a group.

• Trick-or-treat, if possible, while it is still light outside. Have children carry flashlights if it’s dark.

• Remind children to cross the streets only at corner and never to cross between parked cars or mid-block.

• If there are no sidewalks have children walk so they face traffic.

• Have children wait until they return home to sort, check and eat their treats.

Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention and AAA of Northern California

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