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Halloween–to–Prison Pipeline? U.S. Cities Threaten Fines, Jail Time for Teens Caught Trick-or-Treating

Some trick-or-treaters may be out of luck this year.

A handful of U.S. cities is cracking down on candy-seekers over the age of 12, banning older children from partaking in the popular Halloween tradition. Police claim they won’t actively seek out violators, but not everyone is convinced.

Trick or Treating

The Chesapeake, Va., “trick-or-treating” ordinance bans teens from participating in the holiday tradition. (Photo by Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images)

Chesapeake is among nine Virginia cities that have set age limits to keep teenagers out of trouble on Halloween night, local station FOX 23 reported. In Norfolk, teenagers could face a Class 4 misdemeanor if caught trick-or-treating.

“If any person over the age of 12 years should engage in the activity commonly known as ‘trick or treat’ or any activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of nott less than $25.00, nor more than $100.00 or by confinement in jail for not more than six months or both,” the Chesapeake ordinance reads.

According to the city’s website, teens escorting their younger siblings from house to house shouldn’t have to worry. However, authorities warned that some Halloween high jinks simply wouldn’t be tolerated.

“For example, a thirteen-year-old safely trick or treating with a younger sibling is not going to have any issues,” the website says. “That same child taking pumpkins from porches and smashing them in the street more likely will.”

News of the new ordinance drew the ire of social media critics who felt the rules would be used an excuse to target and harass Black children.

“So this is stupid, & racist, cuz white folks always age up black kids,” one critic tweeted. “We got a ‘Trick or Treat to Prison Pipeline now…They’re gonna put kids in jail for Trick or Treating.”

“Imagine having to explain to your Black child that they can’t trick or treat because they could get imprisoned for 6 months since white and non-Black POC routinely overestimate the age of Black children,” another chimed in. “Imagine.”

One woman argued the law would give white moms yet another excuse to call the cops on Black teens and wondered what could happen to “older children taking younger siblings trick or treating, or young teens who would rather trick or treat than get drunk at a party, or individuals with developmental delays?”

The “evil” ordinance has since sparked the age-old debate about how old is “too old” to go trick-or-treating. A few cities have seemingly tried to put it to rest by imposing curfews or even threatening fines and jail time.

For example, several North Carolina cities have set similar legal restrictions for older trick-or-treaters with 9 p.m. curfews for all. Meanwhile, in parts of southern New Jersey the curfew is 7 p.m.

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