As Attorney General John Ashcroft’s warning Monday of a new, “credible” threat of terrorism during the next week further heightened national anxiety, many Bay Area parents said the neighborhood ritual of trick-or- treating will be replaced today by more secure alternatives.
Oakland resident Nakumba Jackson still hasn’t told her 5-year-old daughter she won’t be going out to trick-or-treat. Instead of taking their normal route through the Oakland Hills, Jackson said, this year they will do a candy hunt in their home.
“She’ll be upset,” she said, flipping through kids’ spider costumes at Halloween Headquarters on University Avenue.
Chris Chatmon, director of Oakland’s Eastlake YMCA, said he has encouraged concerned parents to come to the youth organization’s annual Halloween family night, with a haunted house, jumper gym and carnival games, as an alternative to trick- or-treating.
“Given the buzz and us being at war. It does seem folks are a little apprehensive,” said Chatmon. “We’re providing an alternative.”
“A lot of parents are using these events as an alternative to trick or treating,” said Eden O’Brien-Brenner, a Berkeley YMCA family program director.
Erma Montgomery, director of the Oakland YWCA, said she planned to urge parents to stay away from trick-or-treating.
“If you want your child to have candy; buy it yourself,” she said adding that she won’t hand out treats this year because of the threat of anthrax.
While spokespeople from local school, police and fire agencies said they are taking normal precautions, some agencies advised parents to stay calm.
“We don’t expect anything out of the ordinary,” said environmental toxicologist Mark Galvo, at the California Poison Control System, a poison exposure hotline. There have been no reports of anthrax exposure in California, Galvo said. “There’s no real concern.”
“The public needs to be reassured that everything is going fine,” he said adding that parents should report anything unusual to authorities.
But Montclair resident Anjuelle Floyd, whose three children won’t be trick-or-treating, said she was afraid copy cats would poison candy.
“I’m quite pissed off they’re even having Halloween,” said Floyd, clutching a tiny Big Bird costume for her 2-year-old. “We need to wake up and smell the coffee.”
San Leandro mothers, Tatsuki Hewson and Naomi Ito, originally from Japan, said they will go to their Japanese church for Halloween festivities for safety reasons, and because they are not accustomed to the American tradition.
“We are always concerned about safety,” Ito said.