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SALT LAKE CITY — Chances are, one of the first things you do after trick-or-treating is go through your kids' candy to make sure there are no razor blades, or anything you want to keep for yourself.
Why? Because of stranger danger, of course. Halloween is the one time of year that it is perfectly OK to accept candy from a stranger. We're basically asking children to forget for a night an important rule they've learned about safety, and it's our responsibility to make sure they don't suffer because of it.
It turns out strangers may not be as dangerous as most people believe, though. As much as it may sound like the perfect crime, numbers show that most people are not out poisoning children on Halloween.
Few proven cases exist of Halloween candy sabotage, and some were inside jobs: In 1974, Ronald Clark O'Bryan planted cyanide-poisoned Halloween candy in his 8-year-old's treats in an attempt to collect life insurance money on the child. The case was circumstantial, but O'Bryan was convicted of the crime in 1975 and executed in 1984.
- The biggest danger to children on Halloween is auto-pedestrian accidents. Try to go trick-or-treating during early hours and avoid all-dark clothing.
- Remind children to use common sense. Although accepting candy from a stranger's house is OK, most of what they have learned about safety still applies on Halloween.
- Don't eat candy with loose or missing wrappers, and still be cautious. You don't want to be on the wrong end of the odds.
Another case of alleged sabotage was actually one of retroactive candy poisoning: a 5-year-old Detroit boy died in 1970 of a heroin overdose. His tragic death was used as an example of Halloween sabotage, but the police investigation concluded that the boy had found his uncle's heroin stash and consumed it. His family had sprinkled the heroin on his Halloween candy in an attempt to cover up what had actually happened.
One case of Halloween candy sabotage happened in Utah: in 2005, a child received a vial full of cocaine at a trunk-or-treating activity. Police were unsure if the vial was placed in the child's bag intentionally or not, though.
Generally, proven cases of Halloween candy sabotage are few and far between, and most often it is a case of a foreign object placed in candy, not the candy itself being poisoned. Typically, whether the object was placed among the treats on purpose is unclear.
Of course, none of this is to say that parents should not be diligent in looking through their children's Halloween candy or watching where they are going; it never hurts to err on the side of caution, at least where children are concerned. And some people may discover cases of sabotage without reporting it. But the numbers show that children may not be in as much danger as most people believe.