Some parents spooked by sex offenders on Halloween

SEE VIDEO: http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/10/28/some-parents-spooked-by-sex-offenders-on-halloween

Judging by city laws in the U.S., there’s nothing scarier than letting registered sex offenders hand out candy to kids on Halloween.

Several counties in Virginia are taking part in an initiative dubbed Operation Porch Lights Out, which bans pedophiles from distributing candy, decorating their homes, turning their porch lights on, even answering the door.

Ottawa is home to roughly 500 registered sex offenders.

“For Halloween, police do not go out and check to make sure that the sex offenders are not giving out candy,” said Sandie Wilson, administrator of the Ottawa Police sex offender registry.

Section 161 of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits pedophiles from being near children.

“The guys that have their Section 161 … know what their conditions are,” said Wilson.

She’s quick to point out there’s a wide range of sexual offences.

“A slap on the bum (can be) considered a sex assault,” she said. “Not all sex offenders are pedophiles that go after kids.”

Regardless, cities in Illinois and Arkansas, for example, take it a step further, holding mandatory meetings for sex offenders on Halloween night and banning them from parties, corn mazes or haunted houses.

Breaking the Halloween rules in Ontario, Calif., could cost a sex offender $1,000 and six months behind bars.

In the U.S., sex offender registries are made public.

Canadian laws, however, protect offenders’ identities.

That’s for good reason, say Wilson and Ontario Provincial Police Staff Sgt. Adam Alderson.

The lists are used by police “to ensure the safety and security of all persons, which includes offenders,” said Alderson, who manages the Ontario Sex Offender Registry, which includes 14,000 names.

When lists go public, offenders go underground and public safety becomes compromised, said Alderson.

“We have a 97% compliance rate. By them reporting to us, we know where they are.”

The compliance rate in Ottawa is also 97%.

It would be in the range of 60% in an American city with a public registry, she said.

And pedophiles aren’t always the stereotypical creepy guys in the white van with no windows.

“There are a number of women. Most people don’t think of females as being sex offenders,” Alderson said.

Meanwhile, Wilson is reminding parents to stress safety to their kids.

“If they’re going to go trick-or-treating, they really shouldn’t be alone, there should be three or four of them. A parent should be with them. And just go over the day-to-day safety rules. You don’t get into strange cars, you don’t go into stranger’s houses,” she said.

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