Sex offenders and Halloween -- they don't mix
State authorities keep close tabs on convicted sex offenders, particularly around Halloween, when kids are out and going from house to house. Here are some plans that cops and other officials have to keep kids safe and predators in check:
Once again this year, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) will be monitoring certain sexual offenders and reminding them to stay away from children’s Halloween activities. Selected offenders have been sent letters (below) and window signs indicating that they have no candy. In addition, Parole and Probation agents will be conducting hundreds of home visits and working with local law enforcement in some regions across the state to ensure that certain offenders are compliant.
“The Division of Parole and Probation takes very seriously the business of protecting our communities,” says DPP Director Patrick McGee. “Parole and Probation will establish a reinforcing presence across the state during Halloween. We will concentrate our efforts on Sunday, and will visit the homes of those offenders for whom this intervention is determined to be most appropriate.”
Offenders are asked to keep their porch lights out, place “NO CANDY” signs in their windows, and stay away from children’s activities. Those found to be non-compliant could face sanctions for violating the terms of their supervision.
For more details:
Statewide, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation supervises approximately 71,000 men and women. These include more than 2,300 sexual offenders statewide. DPP is also responsible for the more than 1,000 sexual offenders who have been sentenced but not yet released to supervision. Sexual offenders present specific challenges.
Legislation passed during the 2006 Emergency Legislative Session mandated collaborative containment (“COMET”) teams for the management of sexual offenders, and authorized conditions allowing the use of polygraph examinations, computer monitoring, and electronic tracking for sexual offenders. Within months of this mandate, COMET teams with offender-to-agent reduced caseloads of 30-to-one had been intensively trained throughout Maryland; their training included sex offender laws and relevant agency policies, sexual abuse incidence and prevalence, victimology, treatment domains, relapse prevention, and many other subject areas.
Under the O’Malley Administration, DPP has been at the forefront in the development and implementation of effective strategies for the management and treatment of sexual offenders.
The O’Malley Administration secured the passage of lifetime registration legislation, and assisted DPP in greatly enhancing enforcement and supervision measures, including polygraph exams, electronic monitoring, and other tools critical to sex offender management. The Administration provided funding for DPP to intensively train agents to handle sex offender cases; these agents have a reduced caseload and specialize in this vital supervision specialty.
DPP uses a special risk instrument specifically designed to assess sexual offenders to examine every single sexual offender in its system, and initially places all offenders under the highest level of supervision, which includes daily telephone contacts, weekly face-to-face meetings, mandatory treatment referrals based upon risk assessment, and at least monthly verification of compliance with all terms of supervision and Registry requirements. Offenders are moved to lower supervision levels only on the basis of consistent successful compliance and satisfactory risk assessment scores.
The management of sexual offenders in Maryland includes:
Clinical Polygraph Exams
These increase the accountability of sexual offenders for past behaviors, ensure compliance with current supervision, and serve as a deterrent.
Software may be installed on an offender’s computer allowing an agent to monitor or restrict access to particular activities and locations. This allows more accurate risk assessment and potentially prevents victimization. Agency policy requires computer monitoring for any sexual offender release from the Division of Correction who is a child sexual offender required to register with the Md. Sex Offender Registry.
GPS tracking may be used around-the-clock by DPP as required. Curfews may be established and monitored; agents may set geographic exclusions and boundaries; alerts are generated when an offender violates the rules.
Below are the letters sent by Parole and Probation to sexual offenders under supervision, and some Halloween safety tips and statistics put together by Parole and Probation Victim Services staff.
LETTER SENT TO CERTAIN SEXUAL OFFENDERS WHO ARE UNDER MARYLAND PAROLE AND PROBATION SUPERVISION
To All COMET Supervisees:
Halloween is a holiday focused almost exclusively on children and the enjoyment they experience wandering through their neighborhoods interacting with neighbors and strangers alike.
The arrival of Halloween, however, can also lead to increased concern among other family members over the safety of their children due, in part, to their awareness of the presence in their neighborhoods of individuals who have been convicted of sexual offenses.
We, in turn, are aware that you probably have concerns of your own about the often negative reactions of your neighbors to the knowledge that you are living among them. It is not as apparent to them, as it is to us, that most of you are genuinely engaged in the difficult task of rebuilding your lives – of finding a stable home, a steady job, and some small measure of peace and happiness.
This holiday provides an opportunity for you to clearly convey that message to the community – to show that you are making a sincere effort to change the direction of your life and thus regain their acceptance. For this reason (as well as for other more practical reasons, including protecting yourself from possible misunderstandings and allegations), we are requiring your commitment to the following approach, which we believe will allow children and their families to enjoy the holiday without undue anxiety:
Please remain at home on Halloween from 6:00 p.m. onward, with your porch lights out and a “No Candy” sign on the door; and do not answer your door to trick-or-treaters.
This commitment on your part represents a quiet but very meaningful contribution to an enjoyable, uneventful Halloween. It will also hopefully convey to the community a more positive message about you than it is likely to get from any other source.
FROM THE VICTIM SERVICES UNIT OF THE MARYLAND DIVISION OF PAROLE AND PROBATION
Tips on How to Keep Your Kids Safe This Halloween:
• Only visit those houses with porch lights on
• It’s a good idea to stay in the neighborhood your family is familiar with
• Make sure your child stays out of the streets, cross only at crosswalks
• Children should carry a bag for candy, this way no one can grab their hand.
• Children should never go inside a house they are visiting for trick or treating
• Young trick-or-treaters should always be supervised by adults
• Try to go out in groups of three or more
• Have a safety plan in case of emergency
• Take a cell phone and flashlight along
• Trick or treating should be done no later than 8:00pm
The Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) is taking various steps to ensure the safety of our children.
Several restrictions have been placed on registered sex offenders.
Sex Offenders are instructed to:
• Remain in their home on Halloween from 6:00pm until the next morning
• Keep outside lights off and place a “no candy” sign on the door
• Not answer the door for trick-or-treaters
• Not participate in any Halloween events sponsored by shopping malls or other community organizations
DPP Agents and the local police departments will be working together, conducting home visits to sex offenders to ensure they are compliant with the registry and the restrictions placed on them during Halloween.
Teaching children about stranger danger is important but it is not always strangers who can be a danger:
• About 93% of victims know their attackers
o 34.2% of attackers were family members.
o 58.7% were acquaintances.
o Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim (U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004)
• The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, most of whom do not report the offense ( National Institute of Mental Health)
• Over a 25-year period, child molesters had a higher rate of re-offense than rapists: 52% versus 39% (Prentky, Lee, Knight, and Cerce)
• 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12. (U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004.)
• 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused (1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998)
• 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused (1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls)
• In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.)
• Nearly 30% of child victims were between the ages of 4 and 7 (1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.)