KMIR6 Investigation: Sex Predators and Halloween
Police are telling sex offenders in parts of Riverside County that there are new rules they have to follow on Halloween.Photo: Video by kmir6.com
Police are telling sex offenders in parts of Riverside County that there are new rules they have to follow on Halloween.
But are all these new measures really keeping your children safe?
When your children go trick or treating, do you know whose door they are knocking on?
A new rule Riverside County just passed means sex registrants can't decorate their home for halloween, their lights must be off, and if trick or treaters come knocking their door must remain closed.
"I would skip that house for sure!" said a local mother, Tefhany Diaz.
Parents say the laws makes them feel safer.
"That way they don't have kids at their house I guess, but I don't know, I don't think they should have any privileges whatsoever myself," said a local father, Ed Rodriguez.
County supervisors all said yes to the no candy measure.
"There's nothing that prevents them from putting out a major display, turning on the lights and bringing all the kids to the front door for trick or treat," said Supervisor John Benoit.
Diaz said, "That is very good idea, I do have a little 4 year old, so I completely understand."
But are your kids really in more danger on Halloween?
According to experts, no. Dr. Jill Levenson, co-authored, "How Safe are Trick or Treaters?"
"Child sexual abuse is not particularly an elevated risk on Halloween compared to other days," said the associate professor of psychology at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
In fact, the study looked at a period of ten years. Not only did they find no elevated risk for kids, they found no reports showing sex offenders taking advantage of Halloween to lure children.
"Does not seen to be reported instances of sex offenders using trick or treat for those kind of purposes," said Levenson.
So we asked law enforcment if they ever heard of a case though of a child being kidnapped or the grooming process starting as a trick or treater at a stranger's house.
"No, but because of a contact and proximity of trick or treaters… there's always that opportunity that a sex offender will take advantage of the child." said Chief Deputy Rodney Vigue with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
We asked Supervisor John Benoit, why pass a measure that research doesn't back up?
"I would just say that it doesn't cost us a lot if anything to have this statute on the books, and I'm not sure it's going to save a life today, or this month, or this year or next decade, but it's a reasonable step that reasonable people could probably agree that this is probably not doing something they want sex offender's to do," said Benoit.
Halloween sex offender laws are a growing trend across the country, and Dr. Jill Levenson isn't surprised these laws are being passed without proof of an increased threat to kids.
"The majority of policies around sexual offenders and sexual abuse prevention have actually been established in the absence of much empirical research," said Levenson.
But Benoit discounted that research.
"My time in the legislature I was interested those kind of studies that try to prove that people that do horribly bad things are not that often doing them or not around, you can make that argument if you like, we have seen horrible stories," said Benoit.
But Dr. Levenson says research shows sex offender Halloween laws haven't made a difference either way.
"A lot of attention paid to sex offenders by police officers, probation officers, that may actually divert law enforcement attention away from some more relevant risks," said Levenson.
"Children are 4 more times more likely to be killed by pedestrian motor vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year," said Levenson.
We asked officers about that danger.
"In the heavily populated areas, there is always that traffic component with children darting out between cars. And I'd like to remind parents that tell your children to be very safe and very cautious while they are trick or treating, and at the same time tell the drivers that they need to slow it down a little."
Politicians are thinking about expanding the sex offender rules.
"Having an Easter egg hunt in the backyard of a sex offender is equally problematic so there's a possibility that we want to expand this even further," said Benoit.
But Dr. Levenson said stranger danger is rare. Over 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases are someone the child knows.
In fact out of all crime commited around Halloween, non-family sex crimes against children made up less than .2%.
So do these laws just incite more fear in families on a happy holiday?
"We just want to be sensible, have common sense about taking safety precautions and to remember that children do not remember to be at elevated risk for being abused by sexual offenders on Halloween," said Levenson.
So we asked the parents again if they were in favor of the measure even if the study say it won't do anything.
"Of course, yes, completely," said local mother Tefhany Diaz.
"When it comes to sex offenders, it doesn't matter the day or anything you know what I mean, Halloween or any day," said local father Ed Rodriguez.
So parents still like the no candy rules. But according to the research, maybe you can breathe a little easier when you take your kids trick or treating.
The SAFE team-- made up of the district attorney, probation, and sheriff's department-- will be checking sex offender's homes Halloween night to make sure they are following the new rules.