Have you ever looked out your peephole and felt scared of a trick-or-treater? You're not alone. Mayor Mark Eckhert of Belleville, Ill., says he's heard a ton of complaints from frightened single mothers and senior citizens who are less than happy about the “6-foot-tall kids” that ring their doorbells on Halloween. His solution: To create an ordinance banning high-school teenagers—that is, anyone over the age of 12—from trick-or-treating.
"When I was a kid my father said to me, 'You're too damn big to be going trick-or-treating. You're done,’" Eckhert told ABC News. "When that doesn't happen, then that's reason for the city governments to intervene."
Intervening, in this case, means putting an age limit on trick-or-treaters, and threatening the over-12 set with a $100 fine for those who ignore the law—though, according to ABC, that fine has rarely, if ever, been actually meted out. And while some residents of Belleville have complained about the ordinance, it seems that many more are relieved. Trick-or-treat age limits have also been popular in townships in South Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, and Virginia.
However comforting these restrictions may be to some, we can't help but wonder: Are laws the right way to go when we're teaching kids about becoming better adults?
Because, honestly, many of us—myself included— were teenage trick-or-treaters. How it happened for me is probably less important than why (I can try to blame other factors, but the truth is, I just loved free candy). You know when you're aware that you are doing something wrong, but you do it anyway, hoping that you'll pass unnoticed? Well, I quickly learned I couldn't: “You gotta be kidding,” one neighbor said, staring sadly at my baby costume, slamming his door, and providing a necessary behavior adjustment all in one swift move.
While I learned my lesson through good, old-fashioned (and effective) humiliation, Eckhert and others believe that creating laws takes the guesswork away from those unclear about when they are no longer eligible for receiving treats. But not everyone is convinced that excluding teens from the relatively tame activity of trick-or-treating is a great idea. "Trick-or-treating in a large part is embraced in this country because it serves to cut down on teenage vandalism," University of North Dakota history professor and early traditions expert, Hans Broedel, told ABC News. "Certainly telling teenagers they can't go trick-or-treating isn't going to stop them from going out on Halloween and doing whatever."
What do you think? Should overage kids be legally banned from trick-or-treating? And how old is too old for trick-or-treating?