Youngsters celebrating Halloween have crazy costumes and sugar on their minds. They also need to think about safety, and their parents need to take steps to keep them out of harm's way, according to local law enforcement officials.

In the City of Aiken, there is no official start time for trick-or-treating, but it should end by 9 p.m., said Lt. Jake Mahoney of the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Entrances to the Gatewood subdivision, which is especially popular with trick-or-treaters, will be closed to all nonresidential traffic from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

“Children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult,” Mahoney said. “If parents feel that their kids are mature enough to trick or treat without supervision, then they (the children) should stick to areas they are familiar with and go out in groups.

“Residents who are participating in trick-or-treating should leave their porch lights on,” he continued. “If porch lights aren't on, that's kind of the universal signal that there's no candy being offered. We ask children and their parents to respect that.”

Mahoney also offered advice to people who will be driving late in the afternoon and at night on Halloween.

“You should be extra alert in residential areas and drive with caution,” he said. “Keep in mind that children who are trick-or-treating are excited and may move in unpredictable ways. Take extra time to look for children at intersections and be extra careful when entering or exiting driveways. More than anything, drive slowly and anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic.”

After trick-or-treating has ended, Mahoney recommended that parents take a close look at what their children have collected.

“I have been working for Public Safety for almost 19 years, and I'm not aware of any issues in the past where we have had any candy tampering,” he said. “However, there have been occasions nationally where it has happened, so it's prudent and responsible for parents to inspect candy before it is consumed. If it doesn't look right, if it doesn't sound right or if it doesn't feel right, trust your instincts and go ahead and notify the proper authorities. We would rather respond and investigate something that turns out to be harmless in nature than miss an opportunity to stop a tragedy before it happens.”

The Department of Public Safety will have more officers than usual on duty because it is Halloween, and Mahoney said they would be focusing on patrolling Aiken's neighborhoods and subdivisions.

Additional representatives of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office also will be out and about on Halloween, according to Capt. Eric Abdullah. He offered the following suggestions for a safe holiday: “Go to areas that you are knowledgeable about to trick or treat, go only to houses with their porch lights on and watch out for traffic. Be aware of what is going on around you.”

Abdullah also said that Sheriff's Office personnel would be handing out candy in trunk-or-treat efforts in Wagener and at the Midland Valley First Church of the Nazarene at 3526 Jefferson Davis Highway in Clearwater on Thursday.

The phone number for the Sheriff's Office is 803-642-1761. The number for the Department of Public Safety is 803-642-7620.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she has been with the newspaper since January 2013.