How sad. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m not in favor of sex offenders preying on young children. But, it is sad to lose the magic and innocence of a holiday. Even though it never truly existed. (But, it would be kind of funny if they all dressed as priests…..)
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: October 26, 2005
In Westchester County, high-risk sex offenders on probation will be required to attend a four-hour educational program on Halloween night. In New Jersey, state officials are instructing paroled sex criminals not to answer their doors if trick-or-treaters come knocking. And in counties throughout Texas, parolees with child contact restrictions are being told to stay away from Halloween activities, even family gatherings.
All across the country this year, local and state authorities are placing registered offenders under one-night curfews or other restrictions out of fear that in only a few days, costumed children asking for candy will be arriving on their doorsteps.
The measures come at a time of growing unease about the nation’s most dangerous sexual predators. In the last year, two small children were abducted and killed in Florida and a 56-year-old woman was stabbed to death at a mall in downtown White Plains, all at the hands of registered sex offenders, the authorities say.
Most states classify sex offenders by their likelihood of committing new crimes while on parole or probation, but do not distinguish between pedophiles and those whose crimes are against adults.
In effectively detaining sex offenders on Halloween, most officials say they are not responding to any attacks known to have occurred on past holidays but are concerned that the occasion presents a tantalizing opportunity for offenders to have unsupervised contact with children.
“Here you have a unique situation where children are literally showing up at the doors of sex offenders,” said Andrew J. Spano, the Westchester County executive, who announced his initiative yesterday.
Almost all of the new measures are aimed at people already tightly supervised: those on parole or on probation. They are typically in force in the late afternoon and evening, and call for the offenders to either attend treatment programs for several hours or to stay at home and not hand out candy. In those cases, probation and local police officers will go to the homes to ensure compliance, the authorities said.
At least a half-dozen states have enacted such laws, including Texas, New Jersey and Illinois. One state, Virginia, has had a program in place since 2002 called Operation Trick No Treat, in which high-risk offenders must report to their parole offices between 4:30 and 8 p.m. on Halloween, where many undergo treatment.
Jo G. Holland, director for the eastern region of the Virginia Department of Corrections, said it has been successful.
“The interesting thing is that some of those who had not been specifically instructed to come in show up anyway, because they assume maybe we forgot to tell them,” she said.
But yesterday, civil libertarians and advocates for victims criticized the new measures as incomplete solutions and, in some cases, politically timed. Carolyn Atwell-Davis, the director of legislative affairs for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, applauded the efforts but pointed out that most children are victimized by people they know, not by strangers. And by focusing on one night of the year, the restrictions will have limited value, she said.
“I think there are other measures that are better able to protect children on every day of the year, not just one night,” she said. “But it’s good in that it will at least let sex offenders know that the authorities are in fact monitoring them.”
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the new initiatives were a “headline-grabbing response to a serious public health and safety issue” and failed to differentiate between sex offenders whose crimes were against adults and those who focused on children.
“One has to wonder whether this is simply political posturing in time for upcoming elections,” she said.
The measures come as many states are pushing for new restrictions on sex offenders, including monitoring them electronically and keeping them locked up indefinitely after being released from prison. That measure, called civil confinement, is now in place in more than a dozen states, but in New York a bill that would create it has been stalled in the State Assembly for months.
More than 500,000 sex offenders are registered throughout the United States, but only a fraction will be affected by the new Halloween rules.
In New Jersey, for example, where the murder of a young girl in 1994 led to the creation of the law that established the model for sex offender registries, known as Megan’s Law, about 2,200 offenders will be affected. But the roughly 6,000 who committed their crimes before the law was passed will not.
Still, Edward Bray, the acting deputy executive director of the New Jersey State Parole Board, said the plan was necessary.
“The State Parole Board has been trying in the last year to be more proactive,” he said. “And Halloween seemed like a time that was ripe for so many potential abuses and risks to children.”
Sex Offenders See New Limits for Halloween – New York Times
Sex Offenders See New Limits for Halloween