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Is Halloween a pedophile's favourite holiday?

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun. October 26, 2008

Across the U.S., in advance of All Hallows' Eve, authorities are also conducting crackdowns on convicted sex offenders, ensuring they are meeting their parole requirements. It happens every year at this time. 

Many American states require convicted sex offenders to observe a curfew on Halloween or post a sign saying, "No candy at this residence." With all the tough talk about crime in Canada, can we be far behind? 

Knock-knock: Is Halloween really a pedophile's favourite holiday? 

After 364 days of telling their kids not to talk to strangers, many parents next week will turn their children loose to blithely approach anyone's door with the invitation: Trick or treat? And, from sea to darkened sea that evening, who knows who will open that door? It could be a very real predator. Not likely - except in Hollywood's and every parent's imagination.

As a result, many American states are demanding convicted sex offenders stay home, turn off their lights and don't answer the door on the most magical night of the year. 

South Carolina and Virginia last year told sex offenders to report to a parole office at 5 p.m. and remain there until 10:30 p.m. 
California imposed a 12-hour curfew during which paroled sex offenders were not permitted to answer the door or have an outside light turned on.
In Texas this year, registered sex offenders must turn off porch lights and eschew exterior decorations between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Lone Star state parole, probation and police officers will work overtime checking to ensure they comply.

Convicted sex offenders in Maryland face similar restrictions and must display a bright orange pumpkin bearing the message: "No candy at this residence."

If they don't, they risk violating parole and a return to prison.

Missouri passed a law imposing the same kind of conditions this summer, though finally someone said enough is enough. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed suit in that state Wednesday on behalf of four sex offenders over the requirements that they avoid all contact with kids on the night of the ghouls, remain inside their homes and post we-don't-got-no-loot signs.

All four of the plaintiffs, including a woman, either have custody of their children or regular contact with child relatives. 

Anthony Rothert, an attorney handling the case for the ACLU, explains on the ACLU website that the law is bad on several counts - it imposes punishment retroactively, for instance, by imposing "house arrest" (however briefly) for a crime committed before the law was passed. The statute is also "vague and unclear" and leaves his clients wondering whether they are allowed to even celebrate Halloween with their own children.

It promises to be an important case.

Across the U.S., in advance of All Hallows' Eve, authorities are also conducting crackdowns on convicted sex offenders, ensuring they are meeting their parole requirements. It happens every year at this time. 

I can't help but think that under our new tough-on-crime government in Ottawa we'll soon see similar kinds of laws proposed and that kind of approach here.

In recent years, we have generally made it more difficult for sex offenders to blend back into the community by keeping the spotlight trained on them.

We have witnessed Internet sites, registries and police-supported publicity campaigns chasing high-risk offenders from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

Why wouldn't we demand such parolees be under extra scrutiny on a night when youngsters are vulnerable? 

I don't really have a good answer - I guess it's always good if you can better protect kids under any circumstance. 

I still think it's fear-mongering: If these men are a danger, it is not only for a few hours a year on an usually chilly autumn night. 

I believe these laws prey on people's fears. They make politicians think they're doing something useful to combat crime and make parents wrongly feel safer. A no-candy-here sign protects no one. 

Far better to get to know your neighbours and accompany your kids on Halloween, or whenever they're wandering door to door talking to strangers. 

Child safety should be a 24/7, 365-day concern.

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