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Drivers, pedestrians urged to exercise caution on Halloween night

Posted: October 31, 2012 - 12:08am

Families going out Wednesday night to trick-or-treat and people going to Halloween events in Juneau may have it easier than the millions left without power on the East Coast by Hurricane Sandy, but the Juneau Police Department still offered some tips for Juneauites planning to celebrate autumn’s spookiest holiday.

The police released a statement Monday encouraging both pedestrians and drivers to be aware and mindful of one another Halloween night (http://bit.ly/PFc4EZ).

“Motorists are reminded that there will be more pedestrians on the street than normal,” the section of the statement addressing drivers read. “Please drive safely near pedestrians and watch for people running from house to house in neighborhoods.”

The statement added, “Pedestrians are reminded to watch for motorists and cross streets at designated crosswalks if available. Pedestrians are advised to wear bright clothing, walk in groups, and carry a light source.”

According to Safe Kids USA, the United States branch of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Safe Kids Worldwide, twice as many children, on average, are struck and killed by vehicles on Halloween than on a typical night.

National Weather Service forecaster Jim Truitt said Tuesday that he has little advice for the Halloween set beyond what the police can provide, but he did caution that people should be mindful of slick roadways and sidewalks at night.

“I would be concerned that you may have areas, especially at the higher elevations, where the ground has been cold enough that you may have ice,” said Truitt.

Streets and Fleet Superintendent Ed Foster of the Juneau Public Works Department said he wants to remind residents that it is their responsibility to maintain the sidewalk adjacent to their property.

“Even though there’s just an inch or two of snow, it’s just as slick or slicker than having six inches of snow on it,” said Foster. If people were to make sure to keep their sections of sidewalk clear, he added, “That would certainly help the trick-or-treaters.”

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities crews were visible as snow fell Tuesday in Juneau, working to keep major arteries like Egan Drive and Douglas Highway clear.

Jeremy Woodrow, communications officer with DOT&PF, said that if the winter weather lasts into Wednesday, his department will be doing the same.

“As far as DOT goes, our crews will definitely be out there making sure the roads are clear and putting down ice melts along Egan Drive and in intersection areas,” Woodrow said.

Foster said that his crews will plow city roads and use gravel and chemicals to melt snow and ice as needed. He counseled drivers to “take their time” and “approach downhill inclines slowly.”

“That was our main problem today,” said Foster. “Even with traction control on the streets … it was really slick.”

Winter weather aside, the JPD’s Lt. David Campbell, who put out the police’s statement, said Halloween can often bring an uptick in what he called “nuisance stuff.”

“Anecdotally, from my 17 and a half years of experience, we typically have a slight increase in people just doing criminal mischief-type things,” Campbell said late last week. He mentioned the common Halloween hooliganism of smashing pumpkins as an example.

The mischief is more an annoyance than it is “serious crime,” Campbell said. All the same, he added, the JPD will have two full teams of police officers out Wednesday night, with 12 officers on duty by 10 p.m.

“We’ll have quite a big, visible presence out there during the evening,” said Campbell.

Trick-or-treaters are also advised to not enter strangers’ homes or accept anything that is not pre-packaged, unopened and store-bought.

Campbell added, “If they see something that is odd or suspicious, they should tell an adult.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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