Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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

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 skyrockets 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?


Anonymous said...

I suppose it would be too much to ask but, it would be wonderful to see a group of citizens protest outside the Probation Office!

Sex offenders are forced to promote the career of probation officers!

That is most likely worse than the crime they committed.

Anonymous said...

If only those poor, persecuted child molestors didn't have to report to the probation office one extra time a year, our society would be just and right.

1:55: I hope you're kidding. Or maybe you're just upset that you have to report tonight.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you're asking the wrong question. You should have asked, "Where is the evidence that this practice is based upon?"

Anonymous said...

This is among the silliest of all things probation has come up with.

NO, I am not a bleeding heart liberal, nor am I a sex offender. I have worked with a sex offender population for over 13 years, and these scare tactics only promote problems in other areas.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that some sex offenders are on registered sex offenders list because when they were 18 years old they had sex with their 17-year-old girlfriend, or because they urinated in a public place and were nailed for indecent exposure, or some other non-molestation event that doesn't involve children at all. These are also people who have probably already served their time for whatever crime the committed.

This is a bit like rounding up all the people who got tickets for moving violations because they might run over some kids with their car, or rounding up all the DUI convicts on New Year's Eve because they might drive drunk.

This is very "Minority Report" of the police. They're basically jailing people for crimes they have not yet committed.

Anonymous said...

This is rediculous. Once again the American public is aksing the government to raise their children for them. If you don't trust your neighborhood.....then be there when your children are trick or treating. If you are still scared...don't let them trick or treat. Not all sex offenders are insane. Some actually are rehabilitated and actually have lives.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that some sex offenders are on registered sex offenders list because when they were 18 years old they had sex with their 17-year-old girlfriend...

This is simply not true in Texas. Try again but look up the law first.

Anonymous said...

What do they do the probation officers on overtime pay do for entertainment the other 364 days of the year?

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that some sex offenders are on registered sex offenders list because when they were 18 years old they had sex with their 17-year-old girlfriend...

This is true in Wisconsin to a degree. However, locking up the convicted sex offenders will not deter the unknown ones...or the 'new' ones. I was sexually abused as a child, and teen; I knew the person, and he was not convicted because he had a couple of 'alibis'!! Not real of course..just made up. I fear for my my little town in Wisconsin, we have 17 offenders living here and our pop. is 4200! In fact we have 7 living in a 4 block radius from my house! My boys are 12 & 13, and big boys 1 is 5'9, and one is 5'11 and each weigh over 180..and I still chaperon them!
I don't think that locking them(offenders) up is the answer...the PARENTS need to take charge of their kids, and go with them!

Momma P

Anonymous said...

Let's do more:

Lock up everyone who's had a DUI or other alcohol-related infraction on New Years Eve, Christmas & Thanksgiving.

"Corral" all Domestic Violence offenders on the same holidays.

House arrest for any divorced person on Valentine's Day.

OOOO0ooooo - here's one: Lock up all cowardly Republicans that snuck out of performing military duty on July 4th, Veteran's Day & Memorial Day!!!!

I'll bet we can find some more people to target and strip of their civil liberties while we're at it. We have tons of holidays to despoil - let's get crackin!

Anonymous said...

If sex offenders were executed in the beginning, there would be no danger on halloween or any other day. But in today's liberal bleeding heart world, tis far better we make sure scum has rights over the safety of the law abiding public. Call me what you like, I could care less, scum is scum, and nothing will change a sex offender. I will say til the end of my time, sex offenders have NO rights, they gave up their rights when they molested a victim.
But today, we have the aclu, the amnesty organizations worldwide that cringe at the thought of punishment for criminals. If you want to protest something, protest the panty waist judges, the kinky haired lawyers that specialize in defending the low down scum sucking pigs who cannot or will not live in a civilized society. If the death peanlty was used for sex offenders, I would volunteer to pull the switch that sends them to hell where they belong.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate of any category of offenders besides murderers. The desire to kill them all may (or may not) satisfy your blood lust, but there's little evidence doing so would either improve public safety or keep other sexual assaults from occurring. Instead it would prevent many victims from reporting crimes, not that you care, I'm sure. That's why the victim rights group for sexual assault survivors opposed the death penalty for sex offenses this spring. Your comments at 4:39 are pure, silly demagoguery.

Anonymous said...

Yes - Sex offenders are getting "Scarlet letters" tattoed on their forehead. There also is no distinction from predators, and your one-time offender. This is unjust punishment - People murder on Halloween also- where are they going? People who scammed money from people- where are they held up?
You cant lock up the world, you cant live life like only bad things are going to happy.
And by telling the offender they cant control themselves, the more reason they have for not doing so.
If you didnt do the crime - you shouldnt serve the time.

Where are the parents when the kids are out? If not with the child - THEY need to be locked up!

Anonymous said...

3:02, you've already been corrected on the nature of some of the convictions, but your assertion that they've already served their time is also inaccurate. They're on probation. Their sentence isn't complete yet.

I agree that this is silly and done more for publicity than safety. But if there's any group that I'm OK using for political purposes at their own expense, it's child molestors.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"if there's any group that I'm OK using for political purposes at their own expense, it's child molestors"

You and everybody else, frequently even when it isn't in the best interests of the victim.

Anonymous said...

Although I am a law abiding citizen who appreciates proper and ethicical laws and law enforcement professionals, I must say enough is enough with respect to the Sex Offender Witch Hunt.

This cause is more cause celebre and a Political bandwagon for weak minded politicians to promote. It is promoted by those who do not seek a balanced sense of justice in this criminal/societal mine field.

Many of the so called sentances do not properly, rationally and appropriately address the actual crimes committed.

They punish all offenders equally and have no recognition of case particulars, which is simply legal ignorance at the expense of the Constitutional rights of the accused.

Some truly appalling legal twists of sex offense cases many are not aware of:

HEARSAY is ADMISSIBLE: This means ANY child, mother, ex-girlfriend can make an unsubstantiated verbal or written accusation against ANYONE and their comments are admissible in court. He said / she said commentary is traditionally NOT admissible in other criminal or civil arenas.

Arrest warrants can be issued with NO OTHER supporting documentation than the police report! Seriously I would NEVER DATE a parent (male or female folks) it is NOT worth the risk!

17-20% of Sex Offense allegations are FALSE accusations from individuals seeking revenge against another, leverage in a custody hearing, leverage in a divorce settlement or legal financial blackmail, pure and simple.

According to a 1994 (and others) Department of Justice study, the recidivism rate for sex offense is LESS THAN 3%.

Once you are ACCUSED a number of attorneys will tell you , GUILT is presumed REGARDLESS of the case details. Even if not convicted, the mere ACCUSATION and the HELL that entails will follow you for LIFE.

Many so called "CONVICTIONS" are Public Defender plea bargains because the accused doesn't have 50K-100K available to DEFEND themselves against the charges!

With most criminal cases, you are considered to have paid your debt to society once a prison or probation sentance is completed. With SEX OFFENSE cases, release from jail simply means a jail with no walls with the living restrictions, "probation" practices which are meant to CONTAIN an individual for life.

You are punished based upon crimes you MAY commit upon release. This is based upon the decision of BIASED assessors who will freely admit they do not belive ANY former SEX OFFENDER should be released from Prison for ANY reason. How is this not DOUBLE JEOPARDY from the FIRST case?

An ACCUSED sex offender loses many CONSTITUTIONAL rights on the mere ACCUSATION of a sex offense. Many times bail is DENIED regardless of a LACK of criminal history or evidence other than hearsay.

Murder cases are often pleaded down to lesser sentances than SEX OFFENSES!

Attorneys who have had the accusers on the stand ADMITTING they falsified their accusation out of anger or revenge have STILL seen their clients convicted!

This is NOT justice, this is NOT protecting or PREVENTING other sex offenses. It gives politicians and law professionals seemingly wonderful statistics to print at election time.

Although there are Politicians who disagree with some of the existing laws and sentancing guidelines, the hysteria and witch hunt mentality of so-called child advocate groups would smear any Politician who sought BALANCE as being pro sex offender. What Politician wants to fight that label?

Another point that many people may not believe, want to hear or may become angry with is this: The simple fact also is that children are becoming sexually active at younger ages. You may not choose to believe that young children (or heaven forbid YOUR child) are not sexually active at 9-13, but as pregnancy and abortion statistic bear out, the age is DROPPING people. I absolutely do NOT agree with young people being sexually active, but it is up to PARENTS to educate, morally advise and physically control their children's envirionment. Locking up teen agers and labeling them sex offenders for being sexually active is NOT right. Blaming their date is beyond lunacy in a consensual situation. Many young people would rather go along with a sex offense allegation rather than own up to their own sexual activity to family, friends or the public via media.

I am also disgusted with the MEDIA. They will print NAMES AND PICTURES of accused sex offenders PRIOR TO ANY CONVICTION. How is this NOT the MOST heinous SLANDER?

Websites promoting the address and location of sex offenders appear to protectively provide information to "good" parents, when in reality it allows utterly violent mob retribution acts against former offenders who have paid their time.

I am fully aware there are legitimate sex offenders who merit harsh sentancing. However, the irrational witch hunt tactics, vague "investigations" and legal maneuverings are simply not right. Due process has been swept aside in the furor. Cruel and unusual punishment is what I deem the present sex offense case law these days.

And before ANYONE calls me a name or accuses me of being PRO SEX OFFENDER:



Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but child molesters should be shot. I don't care if they are family members, friends, neighbors or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where Larry Craig and Mark Foley are tonight? No sex offender should be allowed to escape this roundup! I don't know about the rest of ya'll, but I'm calling my congressman to voice my concerns.

Anonymous said...

The Pct 6 Constable in Harris County is the master of propaganda in getting free publicity for the past week.

Anonymous said...

Do you have kids, Scott? If you do, I would think you would understand.

Anonymous said...

Too bad you of the liberal bent have never had to feel the pain of a child victim of molestation.

They forfeit their rights to live free when convicted of this crime.

For all of you who feel sorry for child predators, ask yourself this, in one of your deep soul searching moments:

What would you say to the next victim of the molesters whose freedom you seek?

My late Daddy always said that figures don't lie but liars figure. Show me a cured child molester and I'll show you an incompetent shrink.

Recidivism only counts those caught. Not the countless acts where they are not caught.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"What would you say to the next victim of the molesters whose freedom you seek?"

Wrong question: What would you say to the victim who never came forward because nobody wanted Grandpa or Uncle Joe to get the 25 year minimum under Jessica's Law? If most child molesters engaged in stranger rape, you'd be right. But they don't. So you're wrong.

Anonymous said...

All of the arguments I've seen here assume all the sex offenders are "guilty as sin". That means the judicial system never makes a mistake in these cases.

The judicial system does make mistakes. Mistakes that completely ruin the life of an innocent person that is convicted in error. Someone as innocent as the children that are molested.

Using "sex offenders" for a publicity stunt just rubs salt into a wound created by a system that makes lots of mistakes.

Where is the justice in that?

Anonymous said...

To all of you "hang 'em high" internet "tuff guys": 1) apparently, you don't accept the opinions of the experts who work with sex offenders on a daily basis. What makes you think you know more about recidivism than experts in the field and the hard statistics that are generated by their work?
2) Think for one second: if every sex offense against a child was a death penalty case, why would the offender leave the victim alive to testify? Would you rather have a dead child so that you could satisfy your blood-lust?
3) Why stop with sex offenses against children? Aren't all sex offenses horrible to the point where death is the only righteous punishment? Shouldn't we have automatic death for all sex offenses, no matter the age of the victim? And why stop with sex offenses? Isn't is much worse to kill someone rather than just rape them? So shouldn't all murderers automatically get death?
4) Methink you internet "tuff guys" doth protest too much. . . .See Larry Craig. . . .

Unknown said...

This is "theater of the absurd"! There are just way too many kids out there to make abductions safe. And, unlike the "good ole daze" parents are not relegated to the home front; they are out in force as well. When I was 12 I went door to door by myself and one or two friends with no parents in tow or supervision. I used to go to the park or schools for pickup games that had no parental supervision. Today most recreational facilities are closed off and unsupervised physical exercise is actively discouraged. And they wonder about the "obesity epidemic"? How can we take those in authority seriously???

The only crime that makes sense during Halloween is burglary: breaking into the homes without lights when people go out to avoid trick or treaters. And most burglaries are committed by addicts to illegal drugs. I'm wondering why more parents who remember the "good ole daze" with fit and healthy children aren't as ballistic as myself about the impact of the drug war on children.

Anonymous said...

If it prevents one case every 25 years it is worth it. I am not very concerned about the feelings of convicted child molesters.

Anonymous said...

im a level 1 nyc offender, i had to sign that i would have no trick or treat candy on offer to children..thats was easy
i had four officers come into my apt, one went hysterical because there was small glass bowl of tiny boiled candy sitting on a coffe table in front of my 65yr married couple friends...they confiscsted the candy
but this is also the country that ran Abu Ghraib''
don't they have a beeter way to help and protect children like going to desparately poor homes and helping the mothers clean and feed the kids, maybe that would be 'too dirty'

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"If it prevents one case every 25 years it is worth it."

Wrong! You ignore the opportunity costs of that strategy.

What if the cops rounding up sex offenders spent their Halloween evening scouting for drunks who'd partied a bit too much? That would actually save LIVES, and probably a lot more often than once every 35 years. You're wasting resources on unlikely crimes but since resources are finite, that also means you're taking them away from more common, less press-release worthy offenses.

Anonymous said...

5 to 13% of sex offenders recommit. 7% of youth sex crime victims dont know their assailants. If the good people of Mclennan county (myself included0 want to make sure proven perverts dont molest children on Halloween let them. I dont mind the few pennies it costs to round them up and babysit one night a year.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

At 2:35, how do you propose telling the 7% from the 93%?

Also it's not just the pennies, or even the issue of personal privacy or rights - the biggest problem is opportunity cost. It'd save more lives and improve public safety more if those same officers were out on drunk patrol.