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Why Halloween restrictions for sex offenders are not justified

Many of the “well-known” Halloween dangers are, in fact, urban legends. Despite fears that certain houses pass out poisoned candy or treats with razor blades hidden inside, there seems to be no evidence backing up those oft-repeated rumors.

Unfortunately, Halloween is also a time when irrational fears surface about an already disenfranchised group of individuals: Those who have been convicted of sex crimes and forced to register as sex offenders. Law enforcement agencies around the country – including here in Wisconsin – will be keeping close tabs on sex offenders this weekend and going to great lengths to ensure that they can in no way participate in Halloween activities.

In Milwaukee, convicted offenders must be off the streets during trick-or-treating hours. They are also prohibited from handing out candy. In some cases, they must keep their lights off and post signs saying “no candy.”

On the surface, such preventative measures may seem reasonable. With so many children trick-or-treating in the dark, one assumes, this would be a perfect opportunity for a child predator to commit a crime.

But these measures rest on at least two false assumptions. The first is that all sex offenders were convicted for crimes against children. This is simply not true. Some may have even been children when they were convicted.

The second assumption is that, if given the opportunity, a convicted sex offender will almost certainly reoffend. Studies have shown that the recidivism rate for sex crimes tends to be much lower than for other offenses.

Supporters of extra law-enforcement vigilance may argue that it’s better to be safe than sorry. But if there is no statistical data showing that sex crimes are more likely on Halloween, do communities have the right to harass individuals who have already served their sentence and are simply trying to live their lives? And wouldn’t it be a better use of law enforcement resources to increase drunk-driving patrols; a crime which does increase on holidays like Halloween?

There are certainly cases when released sex offenders continue to pose a threat to the community and children. But treating all offenders as if they are going to reoffend does not increase community safety. Indeed, it may simply heighten existing fears which were unfounded in the first place.

Source: Fox 6 Now, “Keeping kids safe: Officials pay extra attention to sex offenders at Halloween,” Myra Sanchick, Oct. 26, 2014

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