At the D.C. Council's legislative session last Tuesday, I introduced a bill designed to restrict trick-or-treat activities after 10 p.m. on Halloween. This bill would have created a new criminal offense for anyone convicted of intentionally giving out food or candy containing any dangerous substance or implement designed to cause physical injury to another person. In addition, this measure would have required children under 12 to be accompanied while trick-or-treating by a parent or guardian not younger than 16.
The council did not feel this legislation warranted exercising its emergency legislative powers. Therefore, the resolution necessary to declare the emergency was voted down, and consequently the substance of the legislation was not addressed.
I thought it was important to introduce such a measure in light of the yearly threat of children's receiving food that has been tampered with in some way so as to be potentially harmful. The recent deaths from contaminated Tylenol indicate this is not an unsubstantiated fear: unfortunately, incidents such as these are actually happening. Therefore, I thought the council perhaps could help shield the District's children from any of these unfortunate incidents.
Since the council did not act favorably, I encourage parents to escort their trick-or-treating children; limit activities to their neighborhood and to early evening hours; inspect all candies or other foods; and refuse foods that are not wrapped or appear to have been tampered with.
As a result of introducing the curfew legislation, I have received considerable support from people throughout the city for legislation that would impose a permanent 10 p.m. curfew on youth. I am now soliciting more public opinion on this important issue. Such legislation should penalize parents of children who do not ad- here to the curfew. The penalty for the parent should perhaps be comparable to a fine for a parking ticket. I invite the community to offer ideas on this point as well.
Permanent legislation would encourage parents to assume more responsibility for the actions of their children. In this way, perhaps the incidence of juvenile criminal activity would be reduced, and the police department could focus more attention on serious crimes. In the past several years, studies have indicated a breakdown in the family structure. A permanent curfew would address this, too. Police Chief Maurice Turner recently expressed his support for a curfew, and I am anxious for a public hearing to gather other views.
No legislator would want to restrict the activity of citizens without first being certain that it is necessary and that it would be effective. I will be investigating further the incidence of juvenile crime, its causes, and possible alternative approaches before proceeding with a curfew measure.