HAVERHILL — Residents, beware: ghouls, goblins and Dora the Explorer will pay you an early trick-or-treat visit Saturday.
While Halloween is always Oct. 31, in Haverhill trick-or-treating is always the fourth Saturday of October. This year it will be Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m.
City Human Services Director Vincent Ouellette said that the earlier time for trick-or-treating was established several years ago by the mayor and City Council for safety reasons.
"There is a lot less traffic on a Saturday night," said Ouellette, who supervises the Recreation Department. Also because it is still daylight saving time, having trick-or-treating between 5 and 7 Saturday gives people an extra hour of daylight, he said.
Ouellette said the fourth-Saturday trick-or-treating time has "flourished" in Haverhill and "it has become a time for families to gather."
"You don't see trick-or-treating on Oct. 31," he said. "People accept it."
The Police Department has placed a special message on its answering machine that reminds callers that trick-or-treaters should make their rounds Saturday night between 5 and 7.
Deputy police Chief Donald Thompson said extra officers will be assigned to work Saturday night, to assure safety. He did not have an exact number of how many more might be called in.
"It's a night where common sense applies," Thompson said. Children should wear costumes with bright colors so drivers can readily see them, and parents should check the candy their kids bring home, he said.
He also advised that particularly for older residents, it's a good idea not to let older trick-or-treaters — teenagers — into their homes.
Thompson said Halloween night itself is often a time for pranks, but "we're used to it."
Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan, who led a number of different school systems before beginning his present job three years ago, said that in some communities, Halloween can be a very treacherous time, with vandalism and gangs "that think it's an open time to attack each other."
"I'm very happy to leave things the way they are," he said of having trick-or-treating during the weekend instead of on a school night.
Donna Mears, head teacher at Greenleaf School, which serves children in kindergarten through second grade, said she and other teachers there stress to the kids, "You need to be with an adult. Always be with a parent or guardian."
Judy Reilly, head teacher at Walnut Square School, which also serves kindergarten through second grade, said she and her colleagues advise the kids to make sure their masks don't obstruct their vision. Also, they warn the youngsters not to talk to strangers and to restrict their quests for candy to their own neighborhoods.
"We also urge them to wear sensible shoes," she said, noting that some trick-or-treaters might be tempted to dress in high heels, which can make a long walk on an October night uncomfortable — and even dangerous.
The deputy chief said Haverhill does not have anywhere near the public safety headache Salem — the Witch City — has every Halloween, when that North Shore city draws thousands of revelers, and extra officers, from the state police and neighboring communities, must be called in to keep order.
"I just hope everybody stays safe," he said.