Sunday, October 30, 2011

Limestone County won't hold Halloween sex-offender roundup

I'm glad to see the reform movement represented in this article (Congrats to Sandi Hrozek) and at least one county won't engage in Halloweenitis at least for this year. This is a good article for the most part.

Limestone County won't hold Halloween sex-offender roundup

By Jean Cole
— The Limestone County Sheriff’s Department won’t be rounding up sex offenders to keep them away from kids on Halloween like the sheriff’s department in one southeast Alabama county.

The Russell County Sheriff's Department is requiring about 35 sex offenders who are on state probation or parole to come to the county courthouse in Phenix City on Monday night for a mandatory three-hour meeting, the Associated Press reported.

Failing to attend could lead to a parole violation and jail time.

The department is also asking 115 other sex offenders to voluntarily attend the meeting, according to the AP. Laurie Franklin, an aide to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor, said sex offenders who voluntarily attend the meeting will receive a $20 reduction in their $80 annual registration fee, the AP reported.

During the meeting, which lasts from 6 to 9 p.m., sex offenders will hear an update on sex-offender registration requirements, Franklin said.

“I don't think it's going to take three hours,” she said. “They may show them a movie or something just so they don't have to sit there.”

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said he wouldn’t be holding such a roundup for several reasons. He does not have the authority to order sex offenders to attend and could not charge them with anything if they did not. He said he does not have the manpower to conduct such an operation. And, he believes his department is doing a good job of tracking sex offenders, whose addresses are available online.

“We don’t have authority to do that (hold a roundup), that would be up to the parole office,” Blakely said. “Logistically, we couldn’t do it with personnel and overtime. If we thought there was a problem we’d do something, but we keep a pretty good handle on them now.”

He said Investigator Mike Gunter, with assistance from Lisa Swindall, does “an excellent job” making sure new and existing sex-offenders comply with the requirements of Megan’s Law. The law requires convicted sex offenders to, among other things, register as offenders, report their whereabouts as well as seek permission before moving or changing jobs. Blakely said all of the other officers also assist with making sure convicted sex offenders comply with the law.

“If they (sex offenders) violate the requirement, they get arrested,” Blakely said.

Gunter said he monitors roughly 143 sex offenders in Limestone County. He said some of those are incarcerated in state prison or local jails. He said that while the Russell County roundup is probably a good thing, he questioned its effectiveness because the meeting would not be mandatory for most of the county’s sex offenders. He said those on state probation or parole are the only ones being required to attend. He said he monitors only “a handful” of sex offenders who would have to attend.

Also, some sex offenders are convicted for victimizing an adult. Others are young men who have had sexual intercourse with a teenage girl who is under the legal age to consent to sex. For example, an 18-year-old boy whose girlfriend is 15. These offenders are not considered a threat to young children.
For and against
Russell County is not the first county or state that has tried to keep tabs on sex offenders on Halloween.

The state of California requires paroled sex offenders who have homes to remain indoors, turn off lights and refrain from decorating and handing out candy on Oct. 31. This Halloween, 2,000 paroled sex offenders without homes must report to parole centers so they have no contact with children on Halloween. They must wear an electronic monitor so authorities can make sure they comply.

Sandi Hrozek of the Internet-based, which aims to protect children from abuse while balancing the rights of convicted sex offenders, questioned the effectiveness of such efforts in an email to the Associated Press.

“There have been studies done determining that the incidence of sexual assault on children is no higher on Halloween than any other day of the year, and there is not a single reported case on record of a child being assaulted by a registered offender while trick-or-treating. It is what some have called a solution looking for a problem,” Hrozek wrote.

Information for parents

There are other ways parents can ensure the safety of children on Halloween. They could accompany their children for trick-or-treating or check on the locations of sex offenders through websites, something the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department also encourages parents to do. Two such websites are: [I will not add public registry links here]

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