After needle reports, cops urge safety first for Halloween candy

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s one of those nightmares that scares parents to death: someone tampering with Halloween candy, and potentially hurting their children.

Eyewitness News spoke exclusively Monday with a local woman who said she bit into a candy bar stuffed with a sewing needle.

Bridget Burns said she enjoyed trick-or-treating with her four-year-old daughter in Pawtucket on Saturday. On Monday morning, she had her eye on a Snickers bar.

“I took it out, I opened it — I bit it and I bit something hard. So I took the candy out of my mouth and noticed something silverish, so when I bent the candy back I found a sewing needle in it,” Burns said.

She took a photo of the candy as proof and reached out to Eyewitness News so that other parents could be on the lookout for similar occurrences.

She and her family then got rid of all of their other candy.

Photo courtesy of Bridget Burns
(Photo courtesy of Bridget Burns)

“If anybody can do that to another child then apparently they’re not right in the head,” she said.

Eyewitness News reached out to Pawtucket police and they are now investigating the claim.

Several reports have cropped up regionally and nationwide about sewing pins or other potentially harmful items in adulterated candy. Though one case — in Auburn, Mass. — was proved to be a hoax, police want you to tell them as soon as possible if you find something in candy that shouldn’t be there.

As for Burns, she said her kids won’t be going trick-or-treating next Halloween.

“I just don’t want to take that chance again,” she said.

Police say to be on the lookout

Warwick Police gave these tips to help find potential culprits (some of which you may want to keep for next year):

  • TAKE NOTE: Try to remember or write down which streets you trick-or-treated on. It’ll help officers narrow down their search.
  • DON’T WAIT: Report potentially tainted candy to police right away. Police might not catch candy tamperers if it’s not reported.
  • DON’T THROW AWAY: Keep the suspect candy in a safe place, away from little hands — in a plastic bag, with the wrappers. It is evidence which police will need to examine.

In an ideal world, kids or parents could check candy they get from each house, said Warwick Police Lt. Michael Gilbert, and that would help zero in on any suspicious activity.

But Lt. Gilbert figures that might not be realistic.

The Warwick Police department has not gotten any reports of tainted candy in the 2015 Halloween season, or previous Halloweens.

If a suspect was identified, he or she might likely face an assault charge, if it was a case of putting a needle in candy, Lt. Gilbert said. But if the circumstances were different (such as involving edible marijuana, or illegal or prescription drugs), the criminal charge would be differnent, too.

What about X-raying the candy?

WPRI.com contacted some local hospitals to see if they use X-rays to look at trick-or-treating candy. Representatives for Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital and Newport Hospital all told us they don’t offer that service. One noted the only place she’s ever heard of such a thing is a handful of small doctor’s offices elsewhere in the United States.

Other incidents

— Springfield, Mass.: A woman told a local television station she found a needle in her daughter’s candy bar, after going trick-or-treating in East Longmeadow, Mass.

— Chicopee, Mass.: Chicopee Police posted an advisory on their official Facebook page asking residents to check candy after a needle was reported found in a candy bar.

— Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: After her daughter went trick-or-treating at a local shopping mall, a woman told police she found a Snickers bar carefully sliced open and a pink pill slipped in between two halves of the candy bar.

— Kennett Square, Penn.: Police said needles were found inside five wrapped Twix bars handed out to four different children in the area. Another was found in a Snickers bar in nearby Woodbury Heights.

The origins of the pins or pill are not clear in any of these cases — whether they originated at the manufacturer or elsewhere.

Annie Shalvey contributed to this report.

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