Police Tell Sex Offenders Not To Decorate For Halloween

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A local Massachusetts police department is going the extra mile to ensure the safety of children on Halloween.

New Bedford District Court Probation Officer Michael Borden instituted Operation Lights Out in 2013 as a way to ensure that registered sex offenders are complying with their probation, according to WBZ.

"We forge relationships with the local police departments and we go out with them, we go to these sex offenders’ homes and they are told not to hand out candy, not to decorate their homes, and to keep their lights out," he said.

Borden got the idea after seeing police officers in the Midwest plating signs outside of sex offenders' homes to warn children and parents on Halloween. 

Massachusetts law does not allow signs, so he decided to create his own program. 

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"We go down there to the homes to make sure that those things are taken care of," he said.

Registered sex offenders cannot have contact with minors as part of their probation, according to Mic. Different states have different ways of enforcing this rule on Halloween, when many children are going door to door.

In states like Florida, Missouri, and Nevada, offenders post signs on their doors that say: "No candy or treats at this residence."

In certain parts of Texas, Virginia, Georgia, and Delaware, sex offenders are forced to report to certain locations on Halloween so they can be monitored.

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In Gaston County, North Carolina, sex offenders still serving out their parole are forced to report to the courthouse.

"We keep them in one big courtroom and call people in and out to do random drug testing and vehicle searches, and we have guest speakers," said Capt. Mike Radford, who runs the program. "If they don't show up, we pick them up and arrest them."

Some experts, however, don't believe these kinds of programs work.

"Going back decades, there is this sense that there are these dangers to children on Halloween," said Jill Levenson, social worker and associate professor at Florida's Barry University. "But the research tells us across the board that the majority of sexual offenders do not go on to reoffend."

Others agree, and say that the crack-down on sex offenders does little more than to stoke parents' fears. Emily Horowitz, chairperson in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at New York's St. Francis College in Brooklyn, says that most children know their abusers and that the idea of strangers hunting down children on Halloween is nothing more than a scary story.

“All it does is make people really afraid, and it kind of destroys the humanity and the happiness of what should be a fun night,” she told USA Today.

But, law officials say that the program is necessary to keep the community safe.

"It’s creating awareness," said Grace Knutson, who works as the sex offender registry director for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Sources: WBZ, Mic, USA Today / Featured Image: Ron Frazier/Flickr / Embedded Images: KOMU News/Flickr, Governor Tom Wolf/Flickr

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