Jerry Davich: Keeping trick-or-treaters away from sex offenders
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org October 30, 2012 5:10PM
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:47PM
Am I the only person who has concerns over the whereabouts of registered sex offenders Wednesday night as waves of unsuspecting children troll for free candy throughout their neighborhood?
Fortunately, not. The police are way ahead of me.
I figured what better day than Wednesday, Halloween, to remind parents about the registered sex offender websites to help locate any offenders in your kids’ trick-or-treat orbit. The sites are not foolproof, of course, but they can help you rule out certain homes in your community. Better safe than sorry, as the old adage goes.
Roughly, 40 million kids across the country will be ringing doorbells as darkness falls, hoping for a free treat, not any kind of trick from a convicted sex offender.
“We will have extra officers out that night,” said Porter County Sheriff David Lain.
For the third year, Lain’s officers will be checking on offenders to confirm they are living where they say they are, and also to ensure they are not giving out candy if it’s prohibited through their probation. Other police departments are doing this, too.
But the cops can’t be everywhere, so it’s up to you, me, and us, to protect our children. One way to do this is to locate and avoid any sex offenders in your community. Especially tonight, when most candy-crazed kids will be unsuspecting of any foul play.
Sadly, I can imagine a scenario where an offender passes out candy to kids and politely invites a lone trick-or-treater into his (or her) home while he “finds the best candy bar” for them, or some other such Halloween-related bribe. Forget all the ghosts, ghouls and goblins often associated with Halloween. That potential situation scares the hell out of me.
Is it a long shot? Sure. But is it one worth risking the safety of your child? Of course not.
Most county police departments and other law enforcement agencies use “OffenderWatch,” the country’s leading management and community notification tool. It’s used to manage and monitor the whereabouts, conduct and compliance status of registered offenders.
“Offenders move frequently, so instead of having to check the maps on a weekly basis, the best way to stay informed is to take advantage of our free email alert system,” the website states.
“You may confidentially register as many addresses in the county as you wish, and we will continuously monitor the addresses and send you an email alert if a new offender registers an address within one mile of any address you register. There is no cost for this service and no limit to the number of addresses you can register — your email address and physical addresses are all confidential.”
In Porter County, visit www.portercountysheriff.com to access this site.
In Lake County, visit www.sheriffalerts.com/cap_main.php?office=54848.
For other counties throughout the state, visit www.icrimewatch.net/indiana.php.
When I punched in my address on the site, it immediately located seven (!) convicted and registered offenders within a one-mile radius of my home, as well as their full names and mug shot photos. A pop-up map showed me exactly where they live, too.
When I clicked on one offender who lives just a block from my house, it showed his age (36), his crime committed (sexual battery) and additional visual details (tattoo on his calf).
At the site, you can also sign up for email alerts telling you when a published offender registers within one mile of your house.
I’ve heard of parents printing this information, and the local offenders’ mug-shot photos, to carry with them during trick-or-treating with their kids.
Is it an overreaction? Try asking that to any child victim or the family of sexual abuse.
Safety tips to remember
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93 percent of American households consider their neighborhood safe. And they probably are, even on this night. But kids need to be reminded again and again of the potential dangers out there.
You don’t want to scare them. You simply want to educate them. With that in mind, here are a few safety tips to share, compliments of the Valparaiso Police Department.
Stay in familiar neighborhoods.
Carry a flashlight and wear bright clothing.
It’s safer to be in groups when walking and trick-or-treating.
Approach only houses that have lights on.
Wear costumes that don’t restrict your sight.
Wait to eat candy after you get home.
Carry a cell phone and immediately report any suspicious activity to police.
What are you going as?
Here are the most popular Halloween costumes this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Adults: Witch, vampire, pirate, Batman and zombie. Children: Princess, Batman, Spider-Man, witch and action/super hero.
What, no homemade hobo costume, like when I was a kid? Also, do any kids still use pillow cases, which are ideal for “getaway bag” trick-or-treating? I hope so.
The cost for that costume and candy collection bag is essentially nothing at all, unlike the average American who will spend roughly $80 on Halloween this year, including a costume ($31), house decorations ($26) and candy to pass out ($23).
Hallow’s Eve rituals
Many of the rituals we follow today may have originated with the culture of the ancient Celts and their priests, the druids, according to a folklore expert.
“Our Halloween celebrations are the remnants of the ancient pre-Christian Celtic celebrations,” said Fred Suppe, a Ball State University history professor.
The Celts can be traced back to 800 B.C., and such customs as children trick-or-treating, making jack-o-lanterns, and even the timing of Halloween can be traced back for centuries.
Suppe said when Christianity was introduced to the Celtic people, church leaders tried to persuade the Celts to abandon their pagan celebrations and adopt the Christian calendar. Because these traditions were culturally ingrained, the church provided “alternative holy days” such as All Saints Day on Nov. 1.
The evening before All Saints Day became “Hallow’s Eve,” with the word hallow meaning holy or saint,” said Suppe, noting that Hallow’s Eve evolved into Halloween.
Here we are in the 21st century still doing similar rituals without having much of a clue why.