Share This Post

Children / Colorado Livin' / Holidays

Parents on high alert this Halloween after Jessica Ridgeway murder (and tips for a safe Halloween)

On Halloween, hyper-vigilance will be as abundant as candy and costumes in the aftermath of the abduction and slaying of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

Relief followed the arrest of 17-year-old Austin Sigg in connection with her death, but most adults — parents and community leaders — remain on high alert as Oct. 31 approaches. Along with fears of copycat crime and stranger danger, there is new awareness that even trusted neighborhood kids may be masking dark and twisted urges.

As the annual fright fest rolls around, schools and churches are beefing up security or Halloween festivals, adding police presence and better lighting or moving activities from outdoors to indoors. Some parents will no longer let their kids trick-or-treat after dark. Others are trying new things, such as progressive parties among neighborhood families.

Halloween for centuries has been a holiday that celebrates all things scary, from the bloody body parts of horror films to ghouls, zombies and Count Dracula.

But this year, parents are spooked enough by daily reality.

“I was just asking my husband what this means for us,” said Lisa Repenning of Westminster. “He said, ‘I feel like we’ve turned a corner. The freedoms we had are not there anymore.’ ”

They no longer let their 12-year-old walk three blocks to the park alone. Even supermarkets don’t seem safe.

“All my friends are on edge about strangers or suspicious people they pass in the store,” she said. “Everyone looks like a criminal.”

Some parents, busy shopping, refuse to let their kids walk over to distant aisles to browse Halloween costumes alone and unsupervised — even if that was OK last year.

In Broomfield, e-mails flew among some PTA members at Coyote Ridge Elementary School discussing whether the annual “Falloween” festivities should be canceled. Another school was contemplating doing the same thing.

“They thought it was a potential hazard,” said PTA president Marcia Craib.

Concern centered on the part of the event that was held outside the school — the Trunk-or-Treat, where parents decorate the trunks of their cars in the parking lot and stand there with bowls of candy, so kids can go easily from car to car.

Rather than face the problem of explaining to students why the traditional party was off, they considered other options.

Trunk-or-Treat had been held in a poorly lighted side parking lot, so they moved it to a lot with better lighting and less access to main roads, making it harder for strangers to possibly sneak in.

In Lafayette, the kids pastor at Flatirons Community Church anticipated that thousands more people would attend the church’s Fall Fest held Friday night because of safety concerns.

“Word on the street leads us to believe we will have up to 20,000 people,” up from estimates of 15,000 to 18,000 kids and parents last year, said Ron Leach. “We’re hearing that parents are looking for a safe, alternative place, rather than traditional trick-or-treating.”

A week in advance, Leach focused on doing all they could to assure parents the environment was safe. In addition to extra lighting, undercover and uniformed police officers were to be present, Leach said.

Trick-or-treating, popularized in America during the 1950s, will change in some Front Range neighborhoods this year, further evolving the tradition already altered.

Shannon Bird, president of Meridian Elementary PTO in Broomfield, will be taking her family trick-or-treating before sunset, rather than after dark.

“Then I invited friends to come to the house, and we’ll have a party after dark,” she said. “There will still be kids out trick-or-treating, so our kids can enjoy passing out candy and being like the big kids.”

Another group of six families will have a progressive trick-or-treat, with kids playing games or trick-or-treating from one home to the next.

“They are not going to multiple unknown homes,” Bird said. “Culturally, it seems fewer and fewer kids are out trick-or-treating as in years past. There are myriad different dangers and threats to kids, so it’s one more reason to find an alternative.”

Still, for some parents, trick-or-treating in the neighborhood will remain a tradition.

Catherine Tidd of Parker will take her kids to trick-or-treat in her parents’ neighborhood, same as before. But this year, the holiday is weighted with emotional burden.

“I think most of us (parents) feel so overwhelmed right now with the task of being even more vigilant than we already were,” she said. “We’re all feeling a little lost and helpless.”

Colleen O’Connor


Tips for a safe halloween

The kidnapping and murder of a child is very rare, according to Feather Berkower, director of Parenting Safe Children in Denver. Still, there are things to remember this Halloween, she says, that can help protect kids.

When trick-or-treating, always go along with children under 12. With younger kids, accompany them to the door. With older ones, you can stand back on the sidewalk.

Urge teens to go out in groups and make sure to agree on a route and expected return time. Keep in touch with them by cell phone.

If kids are home answering the door for trick-or-treaters, open the door with them.

Consider hosting a block party, or getting a group of friends together to celebrate Halloween.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

Share This Post


  1. Hope everyone can stay safe this Halloween season and the kids get the fun out of it.

  2. Parents should be on high alert all the time. Have you ever been around kids? They need a lot more attention than they generally receive.

    The odds of being kidnapped and/or murdered are relatively miniscule compared to the odds of a vehicle accident or being run down by a road raging or text messaging driver or fill in the blank event involving self involved human stupidity.

    People are victimized all the time by the stupidity of others, be it institutional or individual. We must be vigilant. Police can generally only help to mop up the messes of the past, and thank goodness we do have these institutions to help arrest the stupidity of citizens like Sigg, Holmes or Liggett – the list is endless it seems.

    Neither a victim, nor a victimizer we must teach ourselves to be. We take our children trick or treating – because it’s fun – but they don’t eat the candy, because it’s unhealthy, just like not giving enough attention to developing adolescents.

    My condolences to the parents of any child that have lost a loved one for whatever reason. The world is a harsh place and we must be vigilant if it is to become softer at all.

  3. Business as usual at my house this year, just 0.6 miles from the Sigg household. I encourage all of my neighbors to not hide from the wrongdoings of one. Lights are on, and everyone’s home. I refuse to allow the poor actions of one person to destroy the vision of innocence in children.

  4. Yes parents should be vigilant, but keeping kids from trick-or-treating is nothing more than stealing away one of the few true delights of childhood. It’s very simple stuff, walk with your kids (omg, doing something with your kids? Gasp!) and stand at the bottom of the drive while Aieedean and Brahedeighn go ring the doorbell. It’s not a big deal. Just for the love of all that’s holy, don’t ruin it for the kids. There’s enough days in the year to be lame, let them have their supervised fun.

  5. If you have kids, you should always be on high alert. It’s not like you can ever take a break from being on high alert (sort of like homeland security). You made the choice to have them, now you have 18 years before they can freely leave you house. Hopefully you would have raised them right during that time period.

Leave a Reply