COVINGTON -- A little spooky fun is good on Halloween, but area law enforcement will be behind the scenes taking steps to ensure that real dangers are kept at a minimum for trick-or-treaters and their families.
Despite the fact that Halloween actually falls on Sunday, the Newton County Sheriff's Office is hedging their bets and preparing for increased patrols both Saturday and Sunday.
"It's strictly up to the parental discretion of when their kids will go trick-or-treating, but we thought since Sunday night is a school night, there will be less kids out that night," explained Investigator Charles Ammons, who is in charge of the NCSO Sex Offender Registry.
To that end, a mandatory "shut-in" for any convicted Newton County sex offender who is on active probation is planned for Saturday night from 6 to 10 at the Detention Center on Alcovy Road.
"We're doing this in conjunction with the probation department," Ammons said, adding that featured will be speakers including a judge, a representative from the District Attorney's Office and others. "They (the offenders) can ask questions about the new laws. It's an information session for them, but it's also a way we can keep track of them during the high-profile trick-or-treat hours."
Ammons said he expects between 100 and 120 offenders to participate in the "shut-in."
"We've invited those also who are not currently being supervised and parole (The Georgia Department of Pardons and Parole) is asking their people to come, too. So, we'll have those who are mandated to be there and those who are not, but will show up anyway," he said.
Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said his officers will be concentrating patrols in heavily congested areas, especially on Sunday night when he expects most youngsters will be out.
"We'll just be trying to keep an eye on the city and remind everybody to drive safely, pay attention and be on the lookout for trick-or-treaters," he said. "Ultimately, safety rests with parents who should watch children when they're crossing streets and see that they're wearing reflective clothing or have flash lights."
Halloween evening prior to heading out on the traditional trick-or-treating mission, families are invited to the Square for First Baptist Church of Covington's Harvest for the Hungry Fall Festival. The event takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday and aims to raise awareness about hunger and generate donations for the local food pantry. Canned food donations are requested in lieu of an admission fee. The event is being held in partnership with the Community Food Pantry and Main Street Covington.
Kids can play games to earn candy and other prizes, and there will be free hot chocolate, apple cider and cotton candy, music and other family-friendly activities.
Once kids hit the road, Ammons urges that parents be on the alert to keep their own children safe.
"Parents should closely supervise their children. Never leave them alone. They should go nowhere without parents right there with them," he cautioned. "There's no need not to enjoy the holiday, but parents should take a very active role and be very present."
Ammons said children should be cautioned to never enter someone's home just because they promise candy, and they should be told to not eat anything that is not securely wrapped.
He said motorists should exercise caution both nights as there will doubtless be more pedestrian activity.
For those who are out walking on the roadways, they should stay well off the lanes of automobile travel and "Never assume the driver of the car can see you," he said. "Take precautions. Reflective clothing is a plus."
Both Ammons and Cotton stressed to citizens if anyone sees any suspicious activity, they should call 911 and let officers investigate to assess any danger.