Posts Tagged “sex offenders”

Jack O' Lantern - Witches' BrewHalloween 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.

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Halloween inevitably creates “danger” scenarios, especially regarding trick or treat. Back when I was a kid we heard about poisoned candy. With maybe a couple of exceptions — including one in which a child was poisoned by a family member, not a stranger he’d solicited candy from during his trick or treat outing — these stories are pretty much unfounded.

The scare has moved on to new targets since then. Now the danger is sex offenders who will — the presumption goes — prey on visiting kids. CNN, among other media outlets, breathlessly reports:

During the week before Halloween each year, Lt. Steve Rose of the Sandy Springs Police Department in Georgia knocks on the doors of every registered sex offender in his jurisdiction.

Rose set out in his unmarked Dodge Charger Wednesday with a printout of 20 names to verify that the people on the list live where they say they live.

His mission brings him and members of his force to subdivisions, houses, hotels and and apartment buildings in this Atlanta bedroom community of about 85,000 people.

“We do this to give people a level of comfort so they know we’re keeping tabs on them,” said Rose, a former sex crimes detective with 34 years of police experience.

Gee, that’s so nice and comforting. The only trouble is, the whole thing is a crock! LiveScience reports, via Yahoo News:

Each year at Halloween, parents have concerns about trick-or-treating, and many believe that a danger far graver than chocolate overdose awaits their children in quiet neighborhoods: sex offenders.

This scare is fueled by alarmist news reports and police warnings. In many states, convicted sex offenders are required not to answer the door if trick-or-treaters come by, or to report to jail overnight. In many states including Texas and Arkansas offenders will be required to report to courthouses on Halloween evening for a mandatory counseling session. …

A new study shows that the public has little to fear from sex offenders on Halloween. The research, published in the September issue of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, examined 67,307 non-family sex offenses reported to law enforcement in 30 states over nine years. …

“There does not appear to be a need for alarm concerning sexual abuse on these particular days,” the researchers state. “Halloween appears to be just another autumn day where rates of sex crimes against children are concerned.”

The bottom line is that resources and money are being wasted:

Not only is the hype and fear unwarranted, but the study also suggests extra taxpayer dollars spent monitoring sex offenders on Halloween are wasted. All the mandatory counseling sessions, increased police presence, and so on had no effect at all on the incidence of sexual abuse on Halloween.

It’s time to grow up and stop already with moral panics and the scare tactics. That goes for the police departments looking to ratchet up their overtime budgets, and reporters in the mass media who know better than to frighten people without good reason. OK?

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