The city of Chesapeake, Virginia has passed an ordinance banning anyone over the age of 12 from participating in the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating.
A city ordinance code mandates that people over 12 years old may not “engage in the activity commonly known as ‘trick or treat’ or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever.” If they do, they could face a fine of up to $100 or up to six months in jail. Similarly, anyone trick-or-treating after 8 p.m. could face a similar fine and jail time of up to 30 days. Both crimes are classified as misdemeanors.
The reason given for the ordinance is to prevent mischief. But the city did say that it would not actively go out and arrest those who violate the rule. Instead, officials say the ordinance is in place merely as a safety precaution.
“Chesapeake Police staff will focus on making sure the evening is safe for everyone,” the city wrote on its website. “For example, a 13-year-old safely trick-or-treating with a younger sibling is not going to have any issues. That same child taking pumpkins from porches and smashing them in the street more likely will.”
Chesapeake is not the only city with such laws. Norfolk and Newport News, two other cities in the state, also classify trick-or-treating over the age of 12 a “Class 4 misdemeanor.”
While it makes sense for the government to keep the safety of its citizens as a high priority, restricting the liberty of children on Halloween is not the way to do so. There is a balance between freedom and safety, but this ordinance has tipped the scale too far against freedom.