Trick-Or-Treating Age Restriction Stirs Up Debate In VA Towns

CHESAPEAKE, VA—Many kids count down the days until trick-or-treat on Halloween, when they can dress up in costumes and fill their bags with candy. But a few Virginia towns have restrictions on when and which kids can actually participate in the Halloween tradition.

The City of Chesapeake bars children above age 12 from trick or treating. The penalty for breaking this law is a misdemeanor with a “fine of not less than $25.00 nor more than $100.00 or by confinement in jail for not more than six months or both,” according to city code.

The city also restricts trick-or-treat to the hours of 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Anyone who trick or treats after 8 p.m. “shall be punished by a fine of not less than $10.00 nor more than $100.00 or by confinement in jail for not more than 30 days or both.”

The city’s website clarifies the policy, saying police are focusing on those causing mischief, not those breaking the time or age restrictions. An older child trick or treating with a younger child wouldn’t get in trouble. But if a child is causing problems such as taking pumpkins from porches and smashing them, that’s a different story.

Other cities in Hampton Roads have similar policies. The Cities of Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampton trick or treating after 8 p.m. and children over 12 trick or treating are considered Class 4 misdemeanors. Parents and guardians are also not permitted to wear masks in Newport News. In Portsmouth, these offenses are Class 3 misdemeanors.

Other jurisdictions like Williamsburg and James City County specify age limits for trick-or-treat but do not have penalties. In York County, trick-or-treat is also intended to be for children under 13. However, the sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post “no one is going to jail in York County for trick or treating.”

Some questioned the purpose of such policies. “My oldest gets all dressed up to take his sisters out and gets hassled about it,” writes one parent on the Burke Patch Facebook page. “Why adults feel the need to shame a child (which he still is) is ridiculous.”

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Another commenter on Lake Ridge-Occoquan Patch adds, “I rather see kids remain in kid spirit as long as they can, why phase childhood out at 12?”

Northern Virginia jurisdictions do not impose the same restrictions but may recommend a broad timeframe and that adults accompany children under 12.

Do you think older children should be allowed to trick or treat? Let us know in the comments.

Image via Rick Uldricks/Patch

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