Halloween seems to bring out the ridiculous in a lot of Americans. And the mass media have more than a little to do with it. A common mantra every year is that children are sickened and sometimes killed by trick-or-treat candy, every year, because they ingested a “treat” that had been poisoned. Unfortunately for this all-too-common myth, it simply is not true (WebCite cached article). This year, the concern voiced by local media here in Connecticut is not toxic treats, but sex offenders. For instance, WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford offers this proud announcement that the state plans to head off this danger (cached):
Connecticut Department of Correction parole officers will be conducting unannounced home visits and surveillance of the roughly 250 sex offenders under their supervision, for Halloween.
Offenders have been advised to have no contact with minors, keep their outside lights off, and not answer the door for trick or treaters.
And the venerable Hartford Courant dutifully carries a virtually-identical story (cached):
Trick-or-treaters may not be the only ones showing up on Connecticut doorsteps this Halloween.
Parole officers will make unannounced visits to sex offenders’ homes, although the offenders may not know it, the Department of Correction announced Thursday.
They’ll be watching to make sure offenders are not having contact with minors — even those who show up at their homes. The sex offenders have been told to keep their outside lights off and refrain from answering their doors, the agency stated in a press release.
Right at the start, let me state that there is clearly a potential danger here, that some child might unknowingly knock on the door of a sex offender. Clearly that’s possible. I don’t deny it, not in the slightest.
But let’s put this in perspective. It’s exceedingly rare for any child to go trick-or-treating alone, not to mention unsupervised. (We used to go out by ourselves when I was a kid, but that never happens these days. More’s the pity.) The chances that any given sex offender might answer the door and be faced with a lone trick-or-treater he might be able to molest, are extremely remote.
Making this an even more improbable scenario, please note that we’re talking about 250 sex offenders. Yes, that’s 250 … in a state with a population in excess of 3.5 million! The average child in Connecticut will not even go near a sex offender’s home in the first place. A child trick-or-treating at 25 homes (for instance) has a 0.179% chance of encountering a sex offender. That’s right, not even .2 percent of a chance.
(Updated to add: My figures here are wrong. CT has an average household size of 2.52. This means the odds of a trick-or-treater encountering a sex offender while visiting 25 homes, is actually 0.45%. Higher than I cited, but still certainly not significant.)
Talk about a ridiculous non-story. Give me a fucking break!
P.S. In the world of Christian religionism, it turns out that some of them are more than a bit miffed that Halloween is too non-Christian a holiday. So they’ve launched a campaign to celebrate Jesus Ween instead (cached). Yes, you read that right: Jesus Ween (cached). The less said about that, the better, I think … !
Photo credit: De’Nick’nise.Tags: connecticut, connecticut department of corrections, correction department, halloween, jesus ween, journalism, journalism fail, lazy journalism, moral panic, scaremonger, scaremongering, sex offenders, trick or treat, trick or treating, urban legend