Halloween is an older holiday than Halloween itself, and prior to the Seventies, most major cities banned the holiday in order to prevent children from becoming drunk on candy.
In those days, New York was an outlier, thanks to growing concerns about inebriation and public violence. But the holiday survived and even became celebrated for its secular and scientific aspects, such as hand-wringing over the origins of the legend of Jack the Ripper.
Over the years, more people have realized the spirit of Halloween’s physical menace is due in large part to the dangers of a consumer driven holiday that may be best enjoyed by people who like pushing buttons, while conjuring nightmares by dressing up. Most child-friendly practices such as trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins have been discouraged in the interest of safety.
“It’s not safe for the kids anymore,” said Marylyn Cicero, a pumpkin lady in Sag Harbor, New York. “More kids are drinking, and that’s not good for them.”
Ms. Cicero, a grandmother of eight, is not opposed to trick-or-treating, but tries to steer clear of alcohol. Aimee Rosenblum, a 53-year-old mother of three, has also found the holiday dangerous for her kids. “I’m crazy about Halloween,” she said. “My kids are good, but I think as parents of young kids, people don’t take enough care.”
The single most common way to avoid violence, according to Mr. Moreau, a New York City police spokesman, is for parents to keep kids well away from other children. “It is possible that a child could be lured into an altercation” or into a drug trade, he said.
An NYPD spokeswoman told The New York Times that there had been no reports of problems on Halloween.
“Trick-or-treating is a tradition for children. While certain activities like trick-or-treating that have been eliminated or increased safety measures in recent years, there are always risks involved in any activity,” said Julie Wood, the head of the New York City School Safety Division. “We are aware of the dangers and we instruct the children of Halloween safety and the effects of binge drinking on children. In addition, we encourage parents to have an organized plan for safety and structure, and discuss it with their children.”
Ms. Cicero said she still shops for Halloween costumes in her neighborhood and does not let her grandchildren participate in trick-or-treating. “All these drugs,” she said. “I don’t want to have anything to do with drugs.”