People have long debated whether or not teenagers should be allowed to trick-or-treat, but Chesapeake, Virginia, has become the latest town to take this contentious topic in a legal direction. Per The Morning Call, the city only allows those who are 12 and under to get free candy by approaching neighbors and saying “trick-or-treat.” Anyone 13 and up who are caught begging for a free sweet treat face the serious ramifications of a Class 4 misdemeanor conviction. Penalties for this type of misdemeanor include a fine of up to $100 and/or up to six months in jail.
Chesapeake has also passed a law that prohibits anyone from trick-or-treating past 8 p.m., regardless of age. Any children who approach a neighbor’s house and dare to utter the phrase “trick-or-treat” at 8:01 p.m. or later are also guilty of breaking the law and may be hit with a fine of up to $100 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Let Grow reported that Chesapeake is hardly alone in their heavy-handed approach to Halloween. Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk also impose penalties on those who dare to hit the streets with a trick-or-treat bag past the age of 12. Additionally, all of York County imposes a rule that every trick-or-treater must be accompanied by an adult. In other words, a group of 11-year-old kids could be found guilty of a crime if they want to hit the streets together without an adult present.
The Morning Call indicated that most of their readers were upset by Chesapeake’s approach to teenage trick-or-treaters. “Let kids be kids as long as possible” appears to be the prevailing sentiment, as stated by a reader on Facebook. Another reader pointed out the children with autism and other medical conditions shouldn’t be barred from trick-or-treating simply because of their physical age.
A survey conducted by Today found that 46 percent of respondents believe you’re never too old for trick-or-treating, as long as you’re in costume and acting respectfully. Another 18 percent agreed that trick-or-treating should be a Halloween option until the age of 18. Only 11 percent backed the idea of banning kids in middle school, which means that Chesapeake and other cities with anti-trick-or-treating laws don’t appear to be falling in line with the wishes of most residents.
Parenting expert Alyson Schafer told Huffington Post that trick-or-treating should be for every child, from birth until they turn 18, as long as they dress up.
“Adolescence is also a time when our kids have one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood. They pine for the sentimentality of childhood with its fun traditions and magical world of fairies, Santa Claus, and, yes, Halloween wonders.”
Despite many people agreeing that 12 is too young to start prohibiting trick-or-treating, cities are increasingly adopting these laws. Soon, Halloween’s sweetest tradition may be limited exclusively to young trick-or-treaters.