Friday, October 17, 2008

Annual Halloween scare tactic on sex offenders doesn't improve public safety

I'm republishing this Halloween post from last year after seeing lately the resumption of what's become an annual trend: Halloween themed demagoguing and media hype from law enforcement - usually locally generated but seemingly widespread and coordinated - over the possibility of registered sex offenders molesting kids who come to the door at Halloween, an event so rare (there's only been one documented case, ever, of a Halloween abduction) that a kid would be much more likely to select tomorrow's winning lottery numbers.

Some Texas jurisdictions actually round up every sex offender and keep them in one place during trick or treating hours. This year, the latest gimmick is requiring sex offenders to
post a "Scarlet Pumpkin" on their door instead of just turning the lights off. Such foolishness mistargets resources on a night with one of the year's highest youth crime rates, plus it increases to the burdens of sex offender registration with no discernible public safety payoff, making the public less safe and registration more burdensome so sex offenders are more likely to recidivate. Friggin genius.

My advice to people concerned about this is the same as it was two years ago: "Just let the kids go get some candy and have some fun, for heavens sake, and if you're worried what will happen, tag along. It's called 'parenting.'" From Oct. 31, 2007:

You want to know what's really scary? How ill-conceived and hype-driven are public safety policies aimed at reducing sexual assaults on children.

Last year I wrote that scare tactics aren't just for kids on Halloween, and I could and for the foreseeable future probably will do some version of this blog post annually to criticize the foolish policy many police and probation departments have adopted of rounding up all the registered sex offenders in their community into custody on Halloween night to keep them from having children come to their door.
As McLennan County’s most recently convicted sex offender, the 82-year-old businessman has been ordered to gather with about 85 other convicted sex offenders at the Adult Probation Office during prime trick-or-treating hours tonight.

It’s not for a party. It’s so those being supervised on probation as sex offenders won’t have the porch light on and a welcome mat out for young ghosts, goblins and potential abuse victims.

Curtis Hand, director of McLennan County Adult Probation, says the gathering is not optional or just for those who can make it. It’s an order for those on the sex offender caseload — and those who don’t show are going to jail.

This is the third year that Hand has ordered sex offenders to be at the office at 504 N. Sixth St. from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Halloween night. Some complain, but most don’t, Hand says.

In years past, probation officers went from home to home of sex offenders on probation to make sure they didn’t have their lights on and were not answering the doors on Halloween, Hand says.

“We found that this makes more sense to us,” he says. “This is one night during the year that there is a high concentration of children on the street, and to better assure the safety of those children from this population, it just seems like it is better to have them in one spot so you know where they are.”

This is sheer foolishness. At least if you're going to do it, respect their privacy and don't issue a damn press release or contact the media.

The only Halloween abduction in US history was in Wisconsin in 1973, and the killer did not have a prior record. This is a solution looking for a problem, and finding none, hyping a non-existent one almost purely for purposes of political grandstanding. Stranger rape of children isn't the problem (93% of child sexual assault victims knew their assailant), so there's very little public safety justification for this "Round up the usual suspects" routine.

By comparison, petty juvenile crime, vandalism, underage drinking and driving, fights among kids, and all manner of graffiti and property crime skyrocket on Halloween. It'd be easy enough from analyzing previous years' Halloween reports to identify what crimes police should focus on in what parts of town. Why not focus extra resources there, instead of on an over-hyped scenario that's far less likely to ever occur?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

It’s not for a party. It’s so those being supervised on probation as sex offenders won’t have the porch light on and a welcome mat out for young ghosts, goblins and potential abuse victims.

As Sex Offenders are on the list of lowest to re-offend, I think you are right on following the hype line Grits. Only murderers are less inclined to do their crime again. And please don't try and tell me how under-reported sex crimes are. Studies show that large number of 'sex crimes' told by the fem groups are not considered sex crimes what-so-ever. Groups that believe all sex is rape make stuff up all the time too folks, not just the politicians.

Let's get all the murderers, muggers in too, so we can protect the 'potential' victims on that side too...

MSLGWCEO said...

You will all be very happy and relieved to know, that there has NEVER been a Halloweener in the history of the United States that has ever been molested by a registered sex offender.

Both Halloween and Election Day are coming. So, we’re not at all surprised that politicians across the nation are once again posing as Heroes in the fight against the Great Sex Offender Trick-or-Treat Bogeyman. Under the banner of protecting children, they’re restricting the actions of all sex offenders on Halloween, and sending out hordes of probation officers to make sure they stay in their homes (and, in some states, target themselves by posting “No Candy Here” signs), while expecting sheriff and police officials to monitor sex offender compliance on an already especially busy night.
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/...

It amazes me that it can be proved with government statics that there has NEVER been a case where a REGISTERED sex offender EVER molested a trick or treater at their door. Or harmed them in any way. So what is the problem here.

Well, politicians are the real scary ones out there. They and the news media for ratings and votes will do and say anything. That’s the bottom line.

When I grew up, I heard some of my elders tell me not to drink in that fountain because a black man or woman would drink from it. I always asked why could I not drink there? Would I get germs??? Would it make me sick??

In today’s society, the politician’s have lied to the public about the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Politician’s have lied to the public about “stranger danger” as most offenses occur between a family member or someone the victim knows. These are facts not just spouting’s.

Parents do need to keep an eye on their children as they always have, but there is no reason to believe that someone is lurking around the corner or behind every bush that is going to take an hurt your child.

Happy Halloween. Beware of politicians. They are the scariest of them all.

Only one who is inherently interested in fear mongering would use Halloween to petrify the public into thinking that Halloween is unsafe because of the presence of RSO’s. To calculate risk in epidemiology, you divide the number of cases divided by the population of interest. In this case it would be 1/650,000. The risk is so incredibly low that my calculator gives the division an error!!!!!! ” That is only for 1 year, now times that by say, 50 years. OH MY! Fear mongering is what the entertainment news media and politicians are MORE concerned about than protecting children.
MSLGWCEO at www.cfcoklahoma.org

Read this article, "MORE SCARY HALLOWEEN LAWS AGAINST SEX OFFENDERS."
Here: http://www.cfcoklahoma.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=186%3Amore-scary-halloween-laws-against-sex-offenders&Itemid=1

Gritsforbreakfast said...

mslgwceo - Since there were no registries in 1973, it's true that "there has NEVER been a Halloweener in the history of the United States that has ever been molested by a registered sex offender."

However, for the sake of full disclosure, there was the one kid abducted while trick or treating in 1973. The abductor had no prior criminal record and that was the only documented case of trick-or-treater abduction in the history of Halloween celebrations.

When you think about it, it makes sense that there's little risk to children. Typically on Halloween lots of parents are out in force with their kids.

Anonymous said...

Its a sticker!! Whats the big deal. Odds are, people in the neighborhood are aware that a sex offender lives there and would not knock on the door in the first place.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Its a sticker!! Whats the big deal."

It's a sticker with a widely publicized meaning that promotes ostracization of those in the house to which it's attached. What's more, it's an utterly pointless waste of time and money that misdirects police resources from actual public safety threats, purely for public relations purposes.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Anon 9:09 IS a sex offender...

FleaStiff said...

Ofcourse it doesn't improve public safety. Its not supposed to improve public safety; its supposed to provide the basis for issuing a press release trumpeting the supposed dedication and efficiency of someone who wants to bask in the glory of good press releases.

"...it's an utterly pointless waste of time and money that misdirects police resources from actual public safety threats, purely for public relations purposes. ..."
So are DARE programs, Cold Case Units, Most Speeding Tickets, Public Building Metal Detectors, Police Posts at schools and libraries, etc. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Anon 9:09 IS a sex offender...

Well actually, Yes I am an EX-Sex Offender. And I am not touched by your stupid Halloween laws. I am also a Tax payer, and a VOTER. I am also a father. So don't talk down to me, you don't know me. You don't even know why I am on the registry.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

Actually California has had a registry since what, the 20's? And his statement is true. No RSO has ever abducted or harmed a child on Halloween.

Anonymous said...

Its a sticker!! Whats the big deal. Odds are, people in the neighborhood are aware that a sex offender lives there and would not knock on the door in the first place.

10/17/2008 10:08:00 AM


It's a sign, and that sign puts the well-being of my wife and children at risk. My legally owned gun will be loaded and sitting next to the door this year.

Anonymous said...

"It's a sign, and that sign puts the well-being of my wife and children at risk. My legally owned gun will be loaded and sitting next to the door this year."
10/17/2008 03:35:00 PM

Huh? I am not sure I follow

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I am not sure I follow"

He's saying the Scarlet Pumpkin puts a visible bullseye on the offenders home that has consequences for how the residents of that house will be treated long after Halloween has past.

Anonymous said...

"Huh? I am not sure I follow"

To expand on what Grits said. The identification of a SO's home opens them up to vigilante-"justice". Many Sex Offenders have been killed in their homes due to some cretin that decided they were 'god's messenger', righteous in their actions, or just hated sex offenders.

All persons that are involved with a sex offender are open to these attacks on person, property, etc. It has been also reported that SO's children are harassed at school, beaten up, and other things due to the SO parent's classification.

You honestly cannot not say that you have not read or heard of these problems with public vigilantism against SO's ...

Anonymous said...

The #1 thing to do is THINK. GREAT posting, thanks for sharing

XYZ said...

Some information follows about a politician who was big on “cracking down on sex offenders.” The feds recently arrested Chris Ortloff, a New York state legislator from 1986-2006,for using the Internet to set up a meeting for sex with underage girls. At the time of his arrest he was a member of the State Parole Board.

“Ortloff has been a strong proponent of legislation aimed at cracking down on sex offenders. He supported creation of a registry for sex offenders, unrehabilitated offenders, monitoring devices for offenders on parole and mandatory life sentence for the worst sex crimes.
This was Ortloff in a story from July of 1995.
"When a convicted sex offender is released, this type of crime has almost no remediation, it has a higher recidivism rate, they tend to do it, and do it again."


How many politicians, in an attempt to hide their deviant sexuality, are pushing to “crack down on sex offenders” ? Ortloff is not the only one. Mark Foley was instrumental in the writing of and passage of the Adam Walsh Act.
While most politicians calling for cracking down on sex offenders are not the rank hypocrites that Foley and Ortloff are, in most cases they are well-intentioned but sadly misinformed.

There are many misconceptions about sex offenders.One misconception is that recidivism of sex offenders is high.The California Coalition on Sexual Offending has complied many of the appropriate recidivism studies. From a DOJ study, we find that 5.3% of 9,691 sex offenders released from prison in 1994 were rearrested for a sex offense within 3 years of release from prison (Table 41). Among 19,287 registered offenders in the state of New York as of March 31, 2005, of those who had been on the registry for 8 years, only 8 % had been rearrested for a new registerable sex offense. (Table One, page 3)


Is there any relation between Orloff’s “cracking down on sex offenders” and Texas AG Greg Abbott’s recent proposal for more stringent laws on sex offenders? Perhaps all who propose “cracking down on sex offenders” should be asked to comment on the relationship between Ortloff’s arrest and Orloff’s “cracking down on sex offenders.”

Given Ortloff's and Foley's deviant sexuality, and their also being whole hearted leaders in "cracking down on sex offenders," perhaps those politicians who propose "cracking down on sex offenders" should be asked if the public might be justified in wondering if, like Foley and Ortloff,they are hiding something.

Anonymous said...

Seldom is policy concerned with the empirical evidence.

Anonymous said...

When dealing with the thought of an RSO living near you it is easy to allow emotions to overrule common sense. There are over 600,000 RSO's living in the U.S. today, and making them all homeless, jobless, and hopeless is simply creating a time bomb.

U.S. Department of Justice statistics clearly demonstrate that reoffense rates of convicted sex offenders is LOW - not HIGH as most politicians will tell you when they're preying on your emotions to tug at your political heartstrings to get your votes. But it is time for we as parents and American citizens who truly care about public safety to wake up and demand that sensible laws be put in place of those that are presently in existence.

Are you all familiar with Jacob Wetterling and the important work of his mother, Patty Wetterling? Are you aware of HER position on these Draconian Laws we have in place and the impact that they have on the instability of RSO's living among us?

While we sit here and pass judgment and cast aspersions on this entire group of over 600,000 U.S. citizens who made mistakes and many of whom finished their "penalty" long ago, we are fast-forwarding the timer on this ticking time bomb with each new restriction and each new requirement that will make it even more impossible for these people to rebuild healthy, and more importantly stable lives. If we TRULY care about the safety of our children we will wake up and stop thinking solely from an emotional standpoint and demand that our politicians eliminate the PUBLIC registry making it only accessible to law enforcement agencies to use as an investigative tool and allow these people to build some sense of normalcy.

Yes, I am a RSO. I am also a parent and a voting, law-abiding citizen. I never molested a child or anyone else. I never raped anyone. I was never even accused of consensual or unconsensual sex with someone. Now I am forced into a life of loneliness (I would never attempt to force this life on another person - so I don't even try to have a relationship), joblessness (no employer will hire a former offender now that their company name will be put on a public registry and brand them with this modern-day scarlet letter as well), and hopelessness. Every day I pray that God will take me from this Earth. Every day I pray that those who are situated in similar circumstances as me will have the strength to keep their sanity and not lash out like a caged animal who has been backed into a corner.

I reach out to this group from a caring heart - even though I know the reaction I will face. I face this reaction every day of my miserable existence.

W. W Woodward said...

So, any person convicted of a sexual offense, of any degree, along with the innocent members of his/her family are supposed to be punished for the rest of their lives.

How about the people who actually did the crime and weren't, for whatever rationals, not even indicted by a grand jury and never saw the inside of a court room?

BJ said...

As you indicated, if law enforcement would actually focus on the crimes that most definitely will be committed on Halloween such as petty juvenile crime, vandalism, underage drinking and driving, fights among kids, and all manner of graffiti and property crime, we might actually be safer. "Why not focus extra resources there, instead of on an over-hyped scenario that's far less likely to ever occur?" I agree, the resources used for one night to highlight sex offenders is a tremendous waste of my taxpayer money.

BJ said...

By the way, Grits, when are you going to run for state rep or senator and replace one of these people who uses the sex offender issue to granstand in Texas? We could certainly use a lawmaker who actually understands that we are not making anyone any safer with all the ridiculous laws associated with sex offenders.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer and father I get tired of the sex offender hype and paying for it out of my pocket. the money has to come from somewhere! It also seems that the American people have a innate need to hate, blacks, chinese, russians, you name the group of popular dissent and some Americans were on the band wagon before it left the starting point. I'm ashamed of that, and as a citizen I shouldn't have to be! My policy for my child on halloween, I go trick or treating at all times, to every door, and never does my child leave my sight. Not because I'm afraid of a sex offender, just because I'm a parent. I stay involved with child, I mentor my child and that is called parenting...something that some people just don't seem to get.

John said...

In my opinion there has been a war on Halloween ever since I can remember.

Halloween happens to be the last unbaptized pagan holiday left. Most of our holidays are of pagan origin, but successfully taken over by Christianity, baptized so to speak. Somehow the attempt failed with Halloween.

The name itself, Halloween, (holy evening, the day before All Souls Day), is an attempt to Christianize a pagan day of the dead.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a beloved holiday, mainly tricks and fewer treats. Nobody escorted us. There was no danger because we were a pack of kids, and we knew every backyard, every fence, every shortcut in the neighborhood, and we were fleet of foot.

Slowly, treats won out over tricks. In my father's time, it was all tricks.

Then it became collecting pennies for Unesco Children's Fund.

Some time ago, before the pedophile scare, parents began accompanying their kids for "safety." Before Halloween, newspapers circulated scare stories about razors hidden in treats. It was still fun for the adults seeing the little ones in costume at your door, but it isn't much fun for the kids.

And now, this, pedophilia fears.

Oh well. Farewell to a beloved, ancient holiday.

Anonymous said...

Gritsforbreakfast - it only takes one. And if it happened then what's your take. Hmmmm. Oh well? Sorry for the kid? Sympathy for the parents? What? What does it matter if theres been only one documented case? One, is one too many. And to all the others (who are probably pedos themselves, or sympathizers) go tell it to those families who have had a child preyed upon and scared for life. Go and tell the parents of those children never found, that these animals are the lowest to re-offend. It only takes one time. One time and it doesn't matter if they re-offend again or not. Anyone, who sympathizes or feels that these animals deserve anything that they ever knew as "a normal life" from their past, is one sick SOB. It's just like the idiot who keeps saying, "Dah, captial punishment isn't a deterent on crime...dah." It never was meant as a deterent. It was meant that if you were to commit the most unspeakable act in mankind (the taking of another human life) then you will pay with yours. So, Gritsforbreakfast, the moron who said, "Annual Halloween scare tactic on sex offenders doesn't improve public safety,"...well you get it...don't you? Just remember one child victim, just one child who get's abducted, is one too many. It should never, ever happen. Lock'em up. Toss the key. Good riddens. Don't need'ya, you're unproductive in this society anyway, and you've committed a gruesome and unspeakable crime.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:33 - While you're frothing at the mouth, many more kids are at risk from DWIs on Halloween than sex offenders. "It only takes one" drunk to kill a kid on the road, but FAAAAR more drunks are out on Halloween. Should I assume you don't care about dead children because you're so cavalier about diverting resources from DWI enforcement to a much less grave threat?

Kids are more likely to be hit by lightning than molested by a registered sex offender while trick or treating - much more, actually. When someone is hit by lightning, it's a terrible thing. But that doesn't mean you tell your kids to spend all their time indoors out of fear, nor will all the preventive measures in the world help if and when it ever happens. In the only documented case of a molested trick or treater, after all, the Halloween abductor had no prior criminal record. So what's the point? Why waste tax dollars on it if it won't help and other threats are bigger dangers to kids?

Finally, I'll be happy to tell anyone, including "the parents of those children never found," that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates (after murderers, actually), and also that the sex offender registry includes many people who did not commit "a gruesome and unspeakable crime," despite your rant. Most kids who are molested are attacked by a family member or someone they know, not raped by a stranger. Those things are simply true, no matter who you're telling them to.

Anonymous said...

You might want to take note, Anonymous during your little rant about one child being too many,the one child who was abducted was murdered, it was not only NOT a registered sex offender (no registry in 1973), but it was NOT A SEX OFFENSE AT ALL. M-U-R-D-E-R, so now should they round up all the former murderers who have been released into the community. That would be difficult as they are not on a registry. You don't even make sense, you just want to persecute RSOs, plain and simple. Makes one wonder what little secrets you are hiding...

arriendos said...

By the way, Grits, when are you going to run for state rep or senator and replace one of these people who uses the sex offender issue to granstand in Texas? We could certainly use a lawmaker who actually understands that we are not making anyone any safer with all the ridiculous laws associated with sex offenders.