Safety Steps Property Managers & HOAs Should Take This Halloween
By Christopher Marlowe, trial lawyer, The Haggard Law Firm (www.HaggardLawFirm.com)
Halloween is one of the more interesting celebrations in the United States and throughout much of the world. For a few hours one night of the year, generally beginning at dusk, children of all ages transform into their favorite ghoul, villain, superhero, princess or idol. They have a license to collect as much candy as the human body could possibly consume in a dizzyingly short period, and will likely go to bed sated on a meal fit for only Willy Wonka.
They walk or bike the streets with abandon, taking on the persona of whatever character’s armor they have donned, and during this time, have a license to approach anyone and everyone they know (or don’t), and ask for tricks or treats. For a brief while, the fear of stranger danger, abduction, violence, and general modern misanthropy is cast aside for our kids to experience a collective party with everyone around them. Celebrations such as these serve a great and much needed communal purpose in modern society and benefit us all in a lighthearted way that will have refrigerators and greeting cards festooned with caricatures we make of ourselves for weeks and months afterward. However, like any mass celebration, Halloween comes with the safety concerns present any time large numbers of people are shrouded in darkness and wearing makeup or masks. Thankfully, I would argue, this does not happen very often.
As we should know, some take advantage of the opportunity to use Halloween as an excellent opportunity to vandalize property, commit robberies or other crimes, and generally victimize the rest of us – all while moving about cloaked in a disguise that, on the other 364 days of the year, would result in multiple calls to police for suspicious behavior.
Homeowner’s associations, apartment complexes, and other interested groups have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that this predominantly child-focused celebration does not devolve into a preventable tragedy. Managers should distribute and post notices of any organized events related to Halloween celebrations in advance, and be particularly attentive to any problem areas of the community, including areas where lighting is poor, fencing is degraded, and any residences that may be vacant. Because large numbers of people will be out after dark, it is useful for owners, managers, and maintenance staff to take stock of the physical characteristics of the community at night.
Parents and community members should be encouraged to bring flashlights with them and wear reflective clothing. Advise residents to only approach well-lit houses and to travel in groups. Establishing a curfew well in advance of Halloween will enable security personnel and police to respond more effectively to suspicious behavior that may be occurring after the designated trick or treating period has passed.
Homeowners and tenants should be asked to leave on their exterior lights to improve common area visibility for everyone. Encourage residents to participate in Halloween by serving as informal community monitors, and ensure that they have flashlights and their cell phones with them as they observe the festivities.
In advance of Halloween, distribute common sense reminders of the expectations and rules for trick or treating, and the phone number of a contact person for any questions that residents may have. Everyone bears a responsibility to ensure that Halloween is a safe and enjoyable time, but an active and involved Association and management team can help reduce the probability of a preventable tragedy by maintaining these open lines of communication on one of the most unusual nights of the year.
About Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe joined The Haggard Law Firm in 2008 and was named partner in May 2014. Christopher handles a wide array of cases, including those involving negligent security, pool drowning, auto accident, and wrongful death. His work as lead counsel on sexual assault, robbery, homicide and shooting cases, has led to security and safety improvements at commercial and residential properties throughout Florida. Christopher’s dedication to his clients extends past the verdict or settlement. He has assisted several clients to go on to lead and participate directly in victims’ advocacy organizations that offer aid and support to other victims of violent crime in their communities.
Before working as an injury lawyer, he served as an assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade County for four years and tried in excess of twenty-five felony jury trials including armed narcotics trafficking, murder, and other violent felonies.
Christopher has been recognized on the “Best Lawyer in America”, Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite”, Super Lawyers lists multiple times and as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star.” He is a member of the Coral Gables Bar Association, Miami-Dade Justice Association, and the Southern Trial Lawyers Association.
Christopher Marlowe graduated cum laude from the University Of Miami School Of Law in 2002.
Email Christopher Marlowe CLM@HaggardLawFirm.com