Trick, treat and now — jail time: these enticing options are the comprehensive list of results any child above 12 might encounter in some American cities. According to Fortune news, several cities across the the country have implemented age restriction laws on trick-or-treaters. Fortune lists reasons for these limits as safety-based, but in reality, laws like this are a danger to teenagers trying to experience a traditional, carefree night of fun and games. While policy-makers claim they are trying to protect communities from debauchery like pumpkin smashing and toilet papering, they fail to consider they are in turn endangering the teenagers their policies target.
Whether or not the majority of law-enforcement officials intend to strictly check for trick-or-treaters age and arrest children 13 or older should not be the focus here. The all too possible potential for corruption should be. The mere fact that a group of 13-year-olds and 14-year olds are vulnerable to a misdemeanor charge for embracing the Halloween spirit and being kids is unsettling. These kind of laws give excess power to any police officer who desires to take advantage, and while one might argue that no law-enforcement official will want to use their energy to complicate a child’s life, the ever-expanding record of police corruption in America indicates otherwise. A simple truth of the world is that power breeds corruption, and dismissing an age restriction law as a silly but small matter is a dangerous mistake.
Every person grows at their own rate. Age restriction rules overlook developmental differences, and that’s not okay. Even if a 15-year-old is as mature as a typical 15-year-old, there’s no real reason he should be shunned for seeking candy instead of indulging in other less desirable alternatives like under-age drinking, pranking or being antisocial. If those in power want to ensure Halloween is a less chaotic holiday, they should look to constructing alternative functions for teenagers to attend instead of criminalizing their existence.
Overall, laws like these are at best bad news and at worst a way to haunt an innocent child’s future. No child deserves to face potential legal trouble just because they knocked on their neighbor’s door hoping for a chocolate bar. Children on Halloween should only be considered delinquents if that happens to be what they choose to dress up as.