Experts: No Connection Between Registered Sex Offenders and Halloween
NORTH CAROLINA- It’s that time of year again. Costumes, candy and warning signs. Every year, the warning goes out loud and clear for parents- keep your children safe on Halloween. Safe from eating poisoned candy,kidnappers and becoming a victim of a registered sex offender.
However, experts said there is no connection between a spike in registered sex offenders attacking children on Halloween.
In Bartow County, Georgia, the sheriff’s office will post signs on homes and apartments of every registered sex offender in the county. Several states passed “no candy” laws that restrict registered sex offenders from passing out candy on the ghostly holiday. In North Carolina, the law states registered sex offenders may not being on the premises where minors gather for social programs- which could include popular “trunk-or-treat” type gatherings.
However, Sergeant Jack Steingberg said, “It’s really a manufactured fear to associate Halloween with child victimization by sex offender.” Steingberg oversees the Family Victim’s Unit for the Greensboro Police Department. He attributed the low statistic to awareness.
“I think we can attribute that to the public being more aware and more vigilant. The folks that are on the sex offender registry realize that law enforcement is watching, parents are watching.”
“It's just so pointless that everybody gets all worried about sex offenders because it’s just one complete myth, out of fear of a real life boogeyman, that isn’t there.” said Brenda Jones. Jones is the Executive Director of the Reform Sex Offender Law (RSOL). According to nationalrsol.com, the organization serve to educate the public on sexual offense laws and policies which promote public safety, safeguard civil liberties, honor human dignity, and offer holistic prevention, healing, and restoration.
“There is no data, no research that anyone has ever on a registry harmed a child on Halloween.”
According to the National Incident Reporting System, there is no recorded spike in child sex crimes before or after Halloween. “Watching for that person who is already convicted is misplaced any day of the year. The fact is they need to learn to watch for some kinds of discomfort with their child because it’s usually someone the child knows.”
Jones said it’s not the registered sex offender or even the stranger that parents should be wary of during trick-or-treating. “Over 90 percent of all new sex crimes are against children are new. They are somebody that’s never been caught. They are a family member, an older friend, neighbors, teachers, people that the child knows.”
Steingberg agreed and said sex crimes against children happen all year round. He said, yes, it’s a smart idea to be aware of where a child is going, what door they are knocking on and what they are eating, however, parents should continue to be cautious the other 364 days.
“If parents could be as vigilant as they are on Halloween and year round and just keep in mind the safety of their children and where they are at and what they are doing and who they are with and just be aware of your child’s life, I think we could prevent at least some of the sexual assaults that occur.” ..Source.. by Hope Ford, WFMY News 2
How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?
States, municipalities, and parole departments have adopted policies banning known sex offenders from Halloween activities, based on the worry that there is unusual risk on these days. The existence of this risk has not been empirically established. National Incident-Base Reporting System crime report data from 1997 through 2005 were used to examine daily population adjusted rates from 67,045 nonfamilial sex crimes against children aged 12 years and less. Halloween rates were compared with expectations based on time, seasonality, and weekday periodicity. Rates did not differ from expectation, no increased rate on or just before Halloween was found, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics. Findings were invariant across years, both prior to and after these policies became popular. These findings raise questions about the wisdom of diverting law enforcement resources to attend to a problem that does not appear to exist. ..Complete Research Paper.. -OR- Summary of Research
Chaffin, M., Levenson, J.S., Letourneau, E., & Stern, P. (2009). How safe are trick-or-treaters? An analysis of sex crimes on Halloween. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research & Treatment 21(3).
How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?
An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween
Podcast: Dr. Levenson and Det. Robert Schilling
States, municipalities, and parole departments have adopted policies banning known sex offenders from Halloween activities, based on the worry that there is unusual risk on these days. The existence of this risk has not been empirically established. National Incident-Base Reporting System crime report data from 1997 through 2005 were used to examine daily population adjusted rates from 67,045 nonfamilial sex crimes against children aged 12 years and less.
Halloween rates were compared with expectations based on time, seasonality, and weekday periodicity. Rates did not differ from expectation, no increased rate on or just before Halloween was found, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics. Findings were invariant across years, both prior to and after these policies became popular. These findings raise questions about the wisdom of diverting law enforcement resources to attend to a problem that does not appear to exist. ..Source..
Most interesting is the following chart from Levenson's research. What it shows is a plot of sex crimes committed over a 9-year period, Jan 1 through Dec 31. Relevant is that the majority of sex crimes are actually committed during the summer months and the least number of crimes during the winter. The vertical line is Halloween and there is no noticeable spike at Halloween.
From the study:
"The absence of a Halloween effect remained constant over the 9-year period, beginning well before the current interest in Halloween sex offender policies and extending to recent years. Any Halloween policies that have been adopted by reporting jurisdictions during that period appear not to have affected the overall sex offense rate....
In this case, worries and good intentions might have inspired advocates and lawmakers to propose legislation that combats a nonexistent problem. The findings suggest that Halloween policies may in fact be targeting a new urban myth similar to past myths warning of tainted treats.
The wide net cast by Halloween laws places some degree of burden on law enforcement officers whose time would otherwise be allocated to addressing more probable dangerous events. For example, a particularly salient threat to children on Halloween comes from motor vehicle accidents. Children aged 5 to 14 years are four times more likely to be killed in a pedestrian–motor vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year (Centers for Disease Control, 1997). Regarding criminal activity on Halloween, alcohol-related offenses and vandalism are particularly common (Siverts, 2002). Although we do not know the precise amount of law enforcement resources consumed by Halloween sex offender policies, it will be important for policy makers to estimate and consider allocation of resources in light of the actual increased risks that exist in other areas, such as pedestrian–vehicle fatalities.
In short, Halloween appears to be just another autumn day where rates of sex crimes against children are concerned. If anything, increased vigilance concerning risk should be directed to the summer months in general, where regular seasonal increases in rates are readily seen (see above chart)."
Is Halloween Really More Dangerous for Kids?
A lack of evidence doesn’t stop cities from rounding up sexual offenders on the holiday.
Before the sun sets on Halloween, Allen O’Shea will make his way to the local courthouse in Gaston County, N.C., where he will remain for several hours under the watchful eye of law enforcement until trick-or-treating has ended.
This will be O’Shea’s first Halloween as a registered sex offender, a label he earned after having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19. He admits he was wrong. Still, being held in custody because costumed children are walking the streets asking for candy strikes him as absurd.
“My crime had nothing to do with kids,” he said. “I made a 19-year-old mistake. I didn’t go and molest a 5-year-old, and I’m being treated as someone who did.”
The consequences of ending up on a state sex offender registry are harsh, making it extremely difficult to find a job or even a place to live.
But on no day is the fallout stranger than it is on Halloween.
Despite research showing no evidence that children are at greater risk of experiencing sex abuse on Halloween than on any other day, states and localities around the country impose severe restrictions on registered sex offenders during the holiday.
Some, including parts of Virginia, Georgia, Delaware and Texas, require sex offenders on probation or parole report to designated locations. Others, such as Missouri, Florida and Nevada, direct some offenders to post signs on their doors that say, “No candy or treats at this residence.” Broader restrictions in most states direct people on the registry to keep their lights off to deter trick-or-treaters and stay away from children in costumes in their neighborhood or at the local mall.
For more than six years, the Gaston County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina has ordered sex offenders who are still on parole to report to the courthouse on Halloween, said Capt. Mike Radford, who helps to oversee the program.
“We keep them in one big courtroom and call people in and out to do random drug testing and vehicle searches, and we have guest speakers,” he said. “If they don’t show up, we pick them up and arrest them.”
Radford said he doesn’t know why the program began but believes it is because Halloween presents “easy accessibility to a minor.”
The laws began to proliferate nationwide in the 1990s, when the fear of a predator who lures young children into his home with candy arose amid other concerns, such as poisoned treats and razor blades in apples.
“Going back decades, there is this sense that there are these dangers to children on Halloween,” said Jill Levenson, a clinical social worker and associate professor at Barry University in Florida.
But studies have shown that more than 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser, who is often a family member or close acquaintance. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report showed that only 7 percent of those who sexually abused juveniles were strangers to their victims.
Levenson co-authored a study that examined the Halloween effect by looking at sex crimes against children between 1997 to 2005. The researchers analyzed more than 67,000 crimes in which the perpetrators were strangers, acquaintances, and neighbors.
In a year-by-year comparison that zeroed in on Halloween, the researchers found no variation in number or types of crimes committed, even as more laws were added.
But that’s not the message families hear in the weeks before Oct. 31, when articles with headlines such as ..Continued.. by The Marshall Project