The sheriff’s office in Dent County, Missouri, wants to make sure local registered sex offenders don’t have any tricks planned this Halloween.
Missouri law doesn’t allow sex offenders to hand out candy on Halloween, according to the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association. “If their crime happened in 2008 or after, they also have to post a sign saying they’re a sex offender and can’t serve candy,” the association says.
So this sheriff is handing out signs.
“From now until Halloween stop by the Sheriff’s Office and pick up your required, ‘No treats or candy at this residence’ sign,” the sheriff’s department posted on its Facebook page.
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“They can make their own sign,” Whitney Capps of the sheriff’s department told KY 3 in Springfield. “The statute just says that they have to post a sign and the sign says no treats or candy at this residence. There’s no requirements how this message is presented.”
The back of the sign from the sheriff’s office has other reminders about the Halloween rules Missouri sex offenders must follow, she said.
“They have to be inside their residence from 5 to 10:30 pm on Halloween night. All outside residential lighting has to be turned off,” said Capps, adding that sex offenders risk a class A misdemeanor for breaking these laws.
Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas “all have ‘no candy’ laws that ban sex offenders from handing out treats on Halloween,” the Boston Herald reports. “In Florida, sex offenders out on parole cannot hand out candy or wear costumes on Halloween night.”
Some states, the Herald reports, “also ban offenders from corn mazes and haunted houses.”
Local authorities across the country are using social media to remind parents to check online registries that list where registered sex offenders live before kids go door-to-door.
“This Halloween season, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is urging parents to use on-line tools to know the identity of registered sex offenders in the area where they plan to trick-or-treat,” the Indiana department wrote on Facebook last week.
“An on-line sex offender registry is available for residents of La Porte County allowing parents to conduct a search prior to trick-or-treating to prevent their children from visiting these homes during door-to-door trick-or-treating.”
In Tennessee, police and parole officers have undertaken “Operation Blackout,” a sweep of registered sex offenders to make sure they are in compliance with their parole requirements ahead of the holiday.
The effort has already turned up five sex offenders violating their paroles, WMC 5 in Memphis reported, including one man found with graphic nude photos of himself on his phone and a Snapchat account.
Police found pornographic images of children ages 7 to 13 on the phone of another parolee, the TV station reported.
One Georgia town has a controversial plan to round up and detain sex offenders on Halloween night.
The mayor of Grovetown, Georgia, part of the Augusta metro area, announced on Monday that all sex offenders on probation there will be “housed in the Council Chambers on Halloween night from 6pm-9pm,” a Facebook post read.
“There are approx. 25-30 offenders and they will be overseen by the GA Dept. of Community Supervision District 10 (4 officers) and accompanied by one Grovetown Officer.”
Whether that plan comes to pass remains to be seen, since the mayor’s office has been slammed with “hundreds of emails,” according to Fox 54 in Augusta. The mixed reactions can be seen in the comments left on the mayor’s Facebook page.
“All of columbia county should follow suit,” wrote Jennifer Russell. “I have one living right next door to me and my children! How was it even legal for him to move in and me not be notified!?! I had to see his nasty face by chance on the registry list!”
But Beatrice Genitski wrote that the plan “is terrible. I am absolutely against any kind of sex abuse to children or anyone, but these ‘offenders’ have paid their debt to society. I pray they are walking as they should, but to place them in a building as a criminal is wrong.”
Several people wrote comments similar to this one from Shelly Rene that “not all sex offenders touched a child. They aren’t all child molesters.”
Mayor Gary Jones responded to the backlash shortly after the backlash began. “Friends I am not personally going to pick up, round up, call or going to any sex offender’s home,” he wrote on Facebook.
“This is a joint effort with GA Community Probation Services. They are the one’s with the authority under Special Conditions to require that offenders report. The reporting location is Grovetown City Hall. This is legal..... good grief!”