After writing seventeen lengthy pieces since June about ineffective and unconstitutional sex offender residency restrictions, I’m not the least bit surprised that politicians are again this year making hay for Halloween, by targeting their favorite overblown bogeymen. (update: October 9, 2008): there are even more scary laws in 2008) But, I am disappointed that nothing has changed since our post two years ago “Halloween tricks: pols vs. sex offenders,” when we opined:
The scariest sights I’ve seen so far this trick-or-treat season are the stern faces and contorted postures of politicians, masquerading as super-heroes in the fight to protect our children against a horde of halloween sex offenders. As the New York Times described earlier this week (”Sex Offenders See New Limits for Halloween,” Oct. 26, 2005):
“All across the country this year, local and state authorities are placing registered offenders under one-night curfews or other restrictions out of fear that in only a few days, costumed children asking for candy will be arriving on their doorsteps.”
Here are some of the many examples of governmental action that can be found at Google News:
- “Lawmaker seeks to ban sex offenders from Halloween” (WZZM13 [Grand Rapids, MI], Oct. 22, 2007); “Mich. lawmakers seek changes to sex offender registry” (Detroit Free Press, Oct. 22, 2007)
- “Sex Offenders Can’t Participate In Halloween Activities” WKRN.com [Nashville, TN] Oct. 18, 2007). Paroled or probationary sex offenders “cannot hand out candy or……treats, cannot decorate their homes for Halloween, cannot accompany children while they trick or treat or wear costumes. They also cannot go to haunted houses, corn mazes, hay rides or any other seasonal activity.”
- “Midlands Law Enforcement to Keep Halloween Safe” (WLTX19 [Colummbia, SC], Oct. 23, 2007); plus “Authorities Warn Sex Offenders: Forget Halloween” in Ohio WBNS-tv10.com, October, 30, 2007)
- “Bellevue’s proposed sex offender ordinance has public hearing tonight” (GreenBayPressGazette, Oct. 24, 2007)
- “Sex offenders to be checked on Halloween” (Mohave [NV] Daily News, Oct. 23, 2007)
- “A Smith County [TX] Plan Helps Keep Kids Safe From Sex Offenders On Halloween Night” KLTV.com, Oct. 22, 2007) “Adult Probation workers will hit the streets for the first time on Halloween night, making sure offenders under their supervision are obeying the law.“
- “Sheriff: Keep Children From Sex Offenders’ Homes” (WBBM780 Chicago], Oct. 23, 2007)
i only tell the priest
………………………………….…… ed markowski
To discourage contact with children, some registered sex offenders in Maryland will be asked to post signs at their homes that say “No Candy at This Residence,” on Halloween.
That’s right, on a night infamous for roving gangs of youthful tricksters and vandals, Maryland authorities think it’s a good idea to help them figure out which houses to target for an extra prank or two. [Indeed, as I noted in 2005, "These overblown promotional campaigns might be the cause of some ugly vigilantism."] And, at a time when people fight tax increases that would pay for important school supplies and after-school extracurricular activities, and for public libraries, tax payers will be footing the overtime bill for parole and probation officers to be out in force on the streets, or holding seminars for sex offenders at community centers. I can only reply with words first posted here in October 2005:
There must be a good reason for all this extra protection at Halloween, right? . . .
In “Megan’s Law vs. Halloween” (Oct. 26, 2005), Prawfsblawg’s Dave Hoffman asks cogently whether “the state had empirical evidence of a higher-than-average rate of illegal behavior on Halloween?” Not according to the NYT article, which stated: “In effectively detaining sex offenders on Halloween, most officials say they are not responding to any attacks known to have occurred on past holidays.” For those who don’t trust the Gray Lady:
An editorial from Indiana notes today that: “there are no known attacks of trick-or-treating children on past Halloweens.” (KPC Media Group, “Offender series shows need for open eyes, Oct., 30, 2005). Also, per CBS3.com, the Spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Corrections “says no Halloween incidents involving sex offenders and trick-or-treaters have been reported in Delaware”
In Allen County, Indiana, Detective Jeff Shimkus has the best advice: “ISo, the main thing we tell parents to never let their child trick or treat alone.” See “Check for Sex Offenders before Halloween” (Indiana News Center, Oct. 22, 2007) If a parent wants to do more, Detective Shimkus adds:
[E]specially on Halloween, parents need to take advantage of the registry websites that allow you to check to see if a registered sex offender does live near your home within a one-mile radius. All you need to do is enter your address and a detailed map pops up. Parents should then choose a trick-or-treating route that obviously doesn’t include those homes. At the end of the year, the registries will be updated to include more detailed maps and safety tips for parents.
Having given sex offender restrictions much more thought over the past two years, I find myself with the same conclusions as for Halloween 2005:
This is not, in my estimation, a close call. The Halloween Sex Bogeyman laws and restrictions have far too many costs, are far too likely to create a false sense of security among parents, and seem certain to have no real effects, other than giving grandstanding politicians a boost in the polls. I hope my fellow weblawgers will voice their opinions, and that parents will keep a close eye on their young children and a skeptical ear when dealing with their teenagers and their politicians this Halloween season.
If you would like to combine fun and safety education, click for the NYS Troopers Halloween Safety Coloring Book.
update (Nov. 1, 2007): For Halloween 2007, 13WHAM.com, the ABC affiliate in Rochester, NY, did a nice balanced piece, “Pastor Questions Sex Offender Halloween Surveillance” (Oct. 31, 2007). The pastor in question is David Hess, of West Henrietta Baptist Church, and the parson.net. (For a video of the broadcast see YouTube: Sex Offender Halloween Hype.)
In addition, see this CNN article, “Sex offenders locked down, in the dark for Halloween” (CNN.com, Oct. 31, 2007; video), which lists examples of restrictions, but then states:
But some say the sex offender roundups and restrictions are more show than safety.
“There has not been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating,” writes columnist Benjamin Radford on LiveScience.com.
Rebecca Brunger, an Alaska probation officer, told the Anchorage Daily News her state doesn’t put any extra restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween as there’s never been a case there of a trick-or-treater being molested by a registered offender.
Idaho defense attorney Tim Gresback told the Spokesman-Review, in Spokane, Washington, that extra Halloween restrictions on sex offenders are unnecessary.
“Here we’re creating a new police action squad to go out and address a problem that has never manifested itself in the community,” Gresback told the newspaper. He said in 20 years he’d never run across a case of a sex offender attacking a child on Halloween.
afterwords (Oct. 26, 2007): A truly scary Halloween scenario from today’s Schenectady Daily Gazette — an All-Susan-Savage Sex Offender Council.
goblins at the door
in the darkness behind them
a cigarette flares
the low, slow laughter
of a demon
……………………………… by John Stevenson from Some of the Silence
Two more perennial issues have come back to haunt us overnight. Check out:
- Despite our heroic attempt to bury it two years ago (see “more bad neology: law porn“), the silly phrase “law porn” is once again been dug up by law professors who should know better. See Concurring Opinions. Thankfully, Prof. Ann Bartow tries to put a spike through its heart. However, from under his ghostly sheet of anonymity, the Editor of Blawg Review responds with the eerie “Why ‘Law Porn’?“.
- This morning, the student-run Illinois Business Law Journal posted “Billable Hours Be Gone: Should the Hourly Billing System Be Replaced?” (Oct. 24, 2007). I am pleased to say the authors from UICL got it right: “Hourly billing is not to blame for the staggering workload, but the fees required of an associate who hopes to make partner one day.” They correctly concluded that: “The demand for ever increasing salaries for everyone from young talent to senior partners makes the 60 hour workweek unlikely to shrink. Until there is enough discord in the profession to demand a better balance, and perhaps some sacrifice in salary, those who venture into life in a big firm can only expect to be pushed to their physical and emotional limits.” They were kind enough to quote Your f/k/a Editor, and I hope that pieces here, such as “broadening the hourly billing debate“, helped them think through this important issue.