129 Halloween & Fear Based Laws

Based on research by Mark Chaffin, et al 2009, written by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D.

Should laws be based on fear or research? Legislatures in many states have conjectured that Halloween might give sex offenders opportunity to entice children trick or treating or be in disguise. States thus made various laws to prohibit registered sex offenders from decorating their houses, having lights on, or giving out candy.

But is there greater risk? Psychologist Mark Chaffin’s research team reviewed crime data from the National Incident-Base from 1997 to 2005 and examined daily population rates from over 67,000 nonfamilial sex crimes against children aged 12 years and less. They compared Halloween rates with expectations based on time, seasonality, and weekday periods, before and after these laws became popular.

Rates did not differ from norms: no increased rates, nor unusual case characteristics occurred on or just before Halloween. Legislatures: before passing hasty laws based on fears that cost money, divert police, and needlessly raise parents’ fears; verify those concerns with research!

Parents: when kids trick or treat, tell children the rules, and check their understanding: Go only to houses with lights, remain outside homes, not go inside even if invited, dress up and have fun! Say, “Thank you.”


Chaffin, M., Levenson, J., Letourneau, E., & Stern, P. (2009). How safe are trick-or-treaters?: An analysis of child sex crime rates on Halloween. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment, 21(3), 363-374. doi:10.1177/1079063209340143

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