Are sex offenders a Halloween threat?

A study says they aren't, but states are banning parolees from celebrating, regardless


Tracy Clark-Flory
October 19, 2010 5:20PM (UTC)

Just last week, I wrote about a California district's controversial move to ban sex offenders from celebrating Halloween, but Tulare County is hardly alone. Police are gearing up for similar crackdowns across Tennessee and Virginia, where they officially refer to it as Operation Trick No Treat and Operation Porch Lights Out (for serious). "The purpose of the operation is to both protect and remove a high-risk population from the community during a time when ... children could be vulnerable," Larry Traylor, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Correction, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

But just how vulnerable are they, anyway? As the Times-Dispatch points out, research has actually been done to answer that very question, and the answer is: not very. In a study titled "How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters? An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween," researchers used a national database to survey crime reports from 1997 to 2005. "No increased rate on or just before Halloween was found, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics," the researchers reported. That remained true even after policies restricting sex offenders' spooky decorating and treat-giving were instituted. One of the authors of the report, Elizabeth Letourneau, puts it this way: "We almost called this paper 'Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year' because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day."

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