Friday, November 7, 2014

Sex Offenders and Halloween--will it ever stop?

What do these four headlines have in common?

"Staying safe and avoiding sex offenders while trick or treating on Halloween"

"Sex Offenders in Colorado Can Open Doors on Halloween" (sub-text: and we've got to put a stop to that)

"Police out in force for Halloween; extra eye on sex offenders in Effingham"

"County sex offenders required to report on Halloween"

Not a very hard question, is it? These are headlines of just four of a multitude of articles that appeared in online and print media in the four weeks before Halloween. Multitude? Yes...multitude. I captured 50 separate articles, coming from 22 separate states. Those are the ones that crossed my desk in the regular course of my work. When I did an actual search, they are less than half the number that one search brought up.

The states that seem to have put forth the most are, like the first one above, from states that have no restrictions in place for registrants on Halloween. One assumes that someone did his or her homework and knows this is a non-problem and no laws are needed. Not satisfied with that, enterprising law enforcement and journalists took it as a challenge and issued warnings left and right about the danger of those on the registry on this night above all. They cautioned every parent to check the registry carefully before letting the kids go trick or treating. Two of those states now have legislators considering bills that will bring their states in line with the ones that have restrictions. And so it spreads, like a fungus or a cancer.

Additionally, after Halloween a plethora of new articles appeared, all with the same theme: "We did it! We protected your children on Halloween from the big, bad sex offenders. No children were molested by anyone on the registry!" Well guess what, California and Florida? Guess what, Nevada? None were molested in Alabama or Kansas or Missouri either, or any of the other 20 or more states that have no state laws and very few or no jurisdictional ones that affect registrants on Halloween. None were molested anywhere by anyone on the registry while trick or treating--ever, as far as research has been able to determine.

But this is not what the public thinks. How could they when headlines and TV anchors shout at them for weeks about the necessity to take extra precautions on Halloween against "sex offenders"? This was made clear when, in response to an article titled, "Operation Scarecrow helped keep sex offenders away from kids on Halloween," I commented:
"Kept kids safe from sexual predators"--that is such a joke. I don't imagine any kids were attacked by hyenas either, so you might as well take credit for that also. I admit to that being a bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that children are at ZERO increased risk for sexual crime on
Halloween, and all of the law enforcement hype and political hype across the nation is just that--hype that has nothing to do with actually protecting children and much to do with making the public think so. There is no record of a child being molested by a registrant while trick or treating--ever. Now, if increased patrol cars and even foot patrols were out and visible, you may have had an impact on traffic safety and thus have saved a child from being hit by a car. That is what children are at increased risk for on Halloween, and six were killed this year trick or treating. We need facts and truth in laws, in law-enforcement, and in journalism.
I was immediately challenged by a well-meaning reader who wrote:
"the fact is that children are at ZERO increased risk for sexual crime on Halloween" Really, Shelly? And where did you obtain that fact from? From your extensive...several minutes worth of...thinking about the issue? Kudos to the officers for looking out for the kids. I'm glad they take the issue more seriously than Shelly does.
To his credit, when I nicely replied and gave an excellent research source as my evidence, he apologized and complimented me on my response. He is a rare, rare exception.

When did this start? I remember many articles last year, and the year before that, and....? Time out for research.

I searched "Halloween restrictions for sex offenders." I used the time frame of September 1 through November 15. I started at 2000 and came forward. I looked at every single entry. I did not look at any actual articles. If the entry did not clearly link danger from registered sex offenders with Halloween, I did not count it. Early on and continuing forward, the entries include reports of courts overturning or disallowing these restrictions. Frankly, I was surprised there were so many. Everyone needs to go to court over this. The entries also include material from advocates, experts, and research debunking the entire premise and the laws that are useless because there is no problem for them to address. This is by no means a "real" piece of research, but these are my results:

  • 2000  0 articles
  • 2001  1 article, written by someone denouncing the rumors of children's deaths by poison in treats; he calls it Halloween sadism; sex offenders are not mentioned, but I found it interesting.
  • 2002  0
  • 2003  3; California, Louisiana, and a third I was unable to determine announced their creation of laws restricting the activities of registrants on Halloween.
  • 2004  1
  • 2005  11; Megan's Law was mentioned in two of the entries
  • 2006  8
  • 2007  15
  • 2008  60 ?? My guess is that SORNA was becoming a motivating factor.
  • 2009  23
  • 2010  40
  • 2011  66
  • 2012  100
  • 2013  117
  • 2014  177
With very few exceptions, the pattern is clear--an increase every year. I do not expect a decrease for next year, but maybe more will be announcing the overturning of some of these laws. The evidence is clear and compelling that they are laws that have no purpose and no merit. 

5 comments:

  1. Each year TV news casters talk into the camera at people as if we were born yesterday and don't know about being safe on all the major holidays. That kind of news casting is the equivalent of "acting" as in "drama" to get people wide-eyed and scared and go "ooooooooooooooh!".
    If they don't speak this nonsense about Halloween and sex offenders, what "News" are they going to fill those few minutes with? The lady whose cat was rescued from a tree? (this actually HAS made news over the years here in lame Connecticut and I've made fun of such "news" each time).
    Thankfully, CT has none of these S.O. restrictions but it's still mentioned during their "safety" babbling.
    People on Probation or Parole are not allowed to partake in the trick or treating but it's not really enforced. Though I'd like to know what the difference is if the person is on probation or not. If probation were truly designed to PROVE yourself not to be a danger, how are you supposed to do that with all the stupid restrictions? It's not about proving anything other than you can follow a direct order. Therefore - waste of tax payer money.
    I read the RSOL site every day and not only do the articles anger me, the public's comments of ignorance enrage me to the point of wondering what's so proud about being an American anymore.
    We've become sheep to the shepherds more commonly referred to as "politicians"

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  2. and whats really scary is that a sex offender lives right across the street from where im standing.......

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    1. And would you know that ? Thank laura Ahearn and john Walsh for that . Now how is this going to protect children when the word sex offender means so many things and not what it really means .
      Not that it woud have anything to with why your standing there in the first place , and are you a fan of saggy pants and hoodies in ninety degree weather , setting up under age sex worker's on street corners and selling drugs . They are sex offenders and not registerd , and carry unregisterd guns .

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  3. What disappoints me the most is that people connected with the courts and law enforcement who should know better propagate this fiction that those with sex offenses are somehow a particular threat on this one evening. I am currently on probation for a non-contact sexual offense. This year, for the first time in anyone's memory, everyone in my federal court district who is on supervised release for a sex offense was ordered to spend the time between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm at the offices of our treatment provider. Our probation officer was there, and much to her credit she said the decision to require mandatory attendance was made by someone at a higher level and that she personally felt it was unnecessary. Specifically, she said we are already required by our supervised release orders not to have contact with minors--and that requirement applies all 365 days a year. The decision made even less sense since otherwise we would have been told to spend all Halloween evening at home. But since we had to drive to the treatment facility, at 9:00 pm we were free to go and do whatever we wanted. In other words, instead of every sex offender on supervised release spending all night at home, all of us were out and about after 9:00 pm. I am in what is a relatively progressive court distract, and it is unsettling that someone who should have a handle on the non-threat posed by sex offenders would order such an unreasonable requirement.

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  4. I was in Jail on Halloween night for violating a "porch lights out" order which wanted all in my area of VA to be in the house at 5PM. I wasn't in the house at that time but got home around 6:30 that evening.
    My probationer came to check on me that night and although I was late I explained why I was late and he confirmed it but still had to do something. About 2 hours later the police came and took me to jail for violation of the curfew on Halloween night.
    I broke the rule's but in essence it was my responsibility. While I did not actually know about being in at 5PM and it was not in Writing but was verbal I still didn't not hear my probation officer say when I was in his office that a 5PM curfew was imposed.
    Everything aside I gave the officer the benefit of the doubt and it cost me 7 days in jail. At least I know I wasn't molested in jail but what could have been could of turned out all bad. So I did seven days in jail.
    Life and struggles with these sex offense registry requirements go on and very from state to state......I guess one place a sex offender is safe is in Jail on Halloween night. At least one doesn't have to worry about a curfew.

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