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Police warn of Halloween hooligans

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Police warn of Halloween hooligans
Photo: APA (Hochmuth)
14:41 CET+01:00
Despite Halloween being a relatively new phenomenon in Austria, teenagers are using the holiday as an excuse for running a little wild - with police warning that some see the US-centric festival as an excuse to commit property damage and theft.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BK) has issued a press release, explaining that many Halloween pranks are prohibited, and warning that they will be keeping a close eye on possible infractions this weekend.

Parents have been asked to instruct their kids that Halloween vandalism and other acts covered by the criminal code will be handled by the courts, and that even if offenders are under 14-years-old, victims can sue their parents in civil court in case of property damage.

Typical stunts at this time of year including throwing eggs at houses or cars, setting fire to mailboxes, throwing stones at windows, destroying flowerbeds, overturning garbage cans and spraying graffiti.  

Threatening residents who fail to offer a 'treat' as well as stealing candy from younger children are considered punishable offences, and noise pollution will also not be tolerated, according to police spokesman Mario Hejl.

The police recommend that citizens empty any flammable material from or around mailboxes, and place cars, motorcycles and bicycles in protected parking. Toys, garden furniture and other portable items should not be left outdoors if possible. Driveways and gardens should be well-lit to discourage vandals, Hejl said.

Historically, similar festivals have been associated with children going from door to door asking for treats, as described in 400 AD by bishop Asterius of Amasea in Pontus, Turkey.  The bishop preached a sermon against the feast of Calends that mentions the Lord of Misrule, and describes an early form of trick or treating:

"This festival teaches even the little children, artless and simple, to be greedy, and accustoms them to go from house to house and to offer novel gifts, fruits covered with silver tinsel. For these they receive, in return, gifts double their value, and thus the tender minds of the young begin to be impressed with that which is commercial and sordid."

--Asterius, in "Oratio 4: Adversus Kalendarum Festum"
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