Ghosts, Goblins & Predators

Hi dbehkeedfs
Readers! I read this piece and it blew me away. It’s by David Hess, a minister outside of Rochester, New York. Kudos to him — and a thanks, too, for letting me reprint the whole thing!


It’s almost time for the annual Halloween sex offender hysteria. This seemingly has replaced the urban myths about poison candy and razor blades in apples. I was interested to find that there has actually been a recent empirical study of the issue. An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Halloween sex-offender monitoring questioned,” describes it:

…Elizabeth Letourneau, a researcher with the Medical University of South Carolina’s Family Services Research Center in Charleston, S.C., said, “There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.”

Paul Stern, a deputy prosecutor in Snohomish County, Wash., agrees. “People want to protect kids; they want to do the right thing and they make decisions based on what at first glance may make some sense. Sex offenders, costumes, kids — what a bad combination,” he said. “Unfortunately, those kinds of policies are not always based on any analysis or scientific evidence,” said Stern, who started prosecuting sex offenders who victimized children in 1985. 

Stern, Letourneau and two others published a paper last year for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers called: “How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters? An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween.”

The study looked at more than 67,000 sex crimes in 30 states against children 12 and younger from 1997 — before many Halloween sex-offender programs began — through 2005, well after many were under way. “These findings raise questions about the wisdom of diverting law-enforcement resources to attend to a problem that does not appear to exist,” the study concluded.

Letourneau said, “There’s just no increase in sex offense on that day, and in all likelihood that’s because kids are out in groups or they’re out with their parents and they’re moving around, they’re not isolated and otherwise at risk.” She said a better use of police on Halloween night would be to help protect children from traffic. “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,” she said.The entire study is available for purchase. An authors’ summary is available for free.

Interestingly, the study found that sex crimes increased substantially during summer months and that the summer would be a more appropriate time for increased vigilance. More from the study:
It might be argued that Halloween sex offender policies are worthwhile even if they prevent only a single child from being victimized. However, this line of reasoning fails to consider the cost side of the cost–benefit equation. The wide net cast by Halloween laws places some degree of burden on law enforcement officers whose time would otherwise be allocated to addressing more probable dangerous events. For example, a particularly salient threat to children on Halloween comes from motor vehicle accidents. Children aged 5 to 14 years are four times more likely to be killed in a pedestrian–motor vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year (Centers for Disease Control, 1997). Regarding criminal activity on Halloween, alcohol-related offenses and vandalism are particularly common (Siverts, 2002). Although we do not know the precise amount of law enforcement resources consumed by Halloween sex offender policies, it will be important for policy makers to estimate and consider allocation of resources in light of the actual increased risks that exist in other areas, such as pedestrian–vehicle fatalities. Our findings indicated that sex crimes against children by nonfamily members account for 2 out of every 1,000 Halloween crimes, calling into question the justification for diverting law enforcement resources away from more prevalent public safety concerns.
Literally thousands of articles have been published in recent years about the danger presented by registered sex offenders at Halloween. Absent from all of them has been any mention of any specific incident in which a registered sex offender has attacked a Trick-or-Treater—not one, ever! If you know of any such incident, please e-mail me or post a comment below. I bet you can’t find one. This is a new urban myth. We always need some sort of monster on Halloween. It’s the nature of the holiday.

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64 Responses to Ghosts, Goblins & Predators

  1. LauraL October 27, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Yay! People are finally starting to GET IT!!

  2. Ash October 27, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    Then, the chopper parents will claim that sex offenders begin to get it as well, and that now when the offenders read the research they’ll begin to attack on haloween

  3. Greg October 27, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    Another great post, Lenore! If people want to be irrational we can’t do anything about it, but we can change how the media reports things. And we can supply the majority of parents who are willing to think critically with ammunition against their crazy neighbors. You are doing a great job at both!

  4. Stephanie - Home with the Kids October 27, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    They can’t cancel the police forces protecting our kids from predators on Halloween! We need this kind of feel good, ineffective protection to deal with our fears!

  5. Chip Lynch October 27, 2010 at 2:21 am #

    On a loosely related note, does anyone have any opinions on local governments changing the dates of “beggar’s night”? When I was a kid the formula was simple: Halloween Night = Trick or Treating. I moved to Ohio and found out that it is no longer that simple. Last year there was an article about it here:

    Columbus had the logic that Saturday nights were bad for kids to be roaming the streets. Ironically, in my area people had the opposite view — the date is set on Saturday pretty much every year.

    In Free Range terms, does anyone know what this is all about? At least some of the weird articles we see have some justification, even if it’s something the numbers don’t support, a la child predators, but this beggar’s night thing just seems random to me.

    Does anyone else have this issue?

  6. Serena October 27, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    All my life I went trick-or-treating on Halloween, October 31, no matter what day of the week it fell on. This was in California. I’ve lived in Georgia and Tennessee (the bible belt) where many people are uber-religious and don’t bother to even research Halloween and just consider it the devil’s birthday or some such nonsense and don’t participate. But kids who trick-or-treat do so on October 31 unless it happens to fall on a Sunday. Then the community usually changes trick-or-treat night to Saturday night. I’ve heard it’s so that children who go to church and trick-or-treat don’t have to choose between the two but I’ve also heard it’s because people don’t want other people celebrating “the devil’s birthday” on the Lord’s day. Something like that. This is my third Halloween in Central New York and it seems like trick-or-treating happens on October 31 regardless of what day of the week it is.

  7. Ash October 27, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    I think this might be an ease of planning preference. If trick and treat is going on saturday night, then tomorrow is sunday and you dont have to wake up early for school / work

  8. Steph October 27, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    Chip, I live in NJ, and the neighborhoods I’ve lived in have ALWAYS done trick-or-treating on Halloween. I can’t remember ever going trick-or-treating on another day.

    But just across the river in PA, a lot of towns near me pick a different day, usually a Friday or Saturday night, so the kids aren’t up “late” (I’ve never seen trick-or-treat end after 8:00, so I can’t say I agree with that argument). Apparently one town wanted to switch back to Halloween this year and the parents raised a huge stink.

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’m pretty sure I’d be one to raise a big stink if my town decided to hold trick-or-treat any day but Halloween. 😛

  9. pentamom October 27, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    Changing the night is not necessarily a Free Range-related issue. I’m 45, and in the eastern Pennsylvania town I grew up in, trick or treat was ALWAYS on the Friday night preceding Halloween. I believe it was because of the “school night” thing, not any safety thing. If they were doing this way back in the 60’s, I strongly doubt it had anything to do with predator fear, and that was never the explanation given.

    “(I’ve never seen trick-or-treat end after 8:00, so I can’t say I agree with that argument).”

    Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for younger school-aged kids to have 7:30 bedtimes. I did. It may be a holdover from that time. And even if trick-or-treat ends at 8:00, that still means kids aren’t likely to be in bed before 8:30, by the time they get home, get the costumes and makeup off, gasp over their candy, and so forth. And even now my 9 yo has an 8:15 normal bedtime, so it’s not totally unrealistic.

    I mean, I don’t make an issue of it when there’s a special occasion, but it’s not hard to believe that it was held on a weekend for the sake of kindergartners.

  10. Jen Connelly October 27, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    I grew up in Chicago and trick or treating was always on the 31st no matter what day of the week it fell on and we went out even if it was snowing (been known to happen). I never even realized people did it on other days until I had kids of my own. When we were living in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA they did their trick or treating the Thursday before Halloween. I thought it very odd but people I talked to who grew up in the town said it had been that way for at least 50 years. So on the Thursday before Halloween I got the kids dressed up, not knowing what to expect. At 6pm the sirens at the volunteer fire dept. went off and I looked out the window to see kids streaming out of houses. Guess that meant it was time to go so off we went into the hills.
    It was an amazing experience…the way trick or treating should be. Everyone that was going to pass out candy was on their porch or the bottom of their stairs (no bell ringing apparently). The police and fire department were out patrolling casually with their lights blinking. They went really slow, stopped to talk to people, waved at the kids, etc. I don’t think I was ever on a block that didn’t have at least one car with blinking lights driving by at some point. I felt very safe and there was absolutely no vandalism and almost no traffic. We walked for 2 hours and had a blast. We never got that much candy in Chicago after walking for hours and hours.
    When my then 4yo stumbled down some stairs and spilled her candy kids didn’t dash in to steal it. A little boy (about 6) also coming down the stairs stopped to help her pick it all up and comforted her (I was at the bottom of the stairs with my 7mo in the stroller as was the mom of the little boy). Then at 8pm the sirens went off again and everyone headed home, lights went off, people went in, cops went home. They also had a Halloween party in the town parking lot hosted by the churches for people that didn’t want their kids going door to door.

  11. Nanci October 27, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    Trick or Treating ends at 8:00! I guess I missed that, my kids are out till a bit after 9:00 every year. The best part is by that time of night people are just emptying the rest of their candy into my kids bags and making comments about how they just don’t need the chocolate at their house 🙂

  12. Beth Nixon October 27, 2010 at 4:13 am #

    Sorry, this isn’t on topic for your post today. I just saw this link:

    And I couldn’t even watch the end of it. I started reading some of the comments and I had to forward it to you. Being overprotective CAN hurt your child . . . why don’t people see that??

  13. Sky October 27, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    Ohio is just weird. They have strict days and times for trick or treating set by and enforced by authorities and varying from town to town. In most of the country its the 31st regardless.

  14. KarenW October 27, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    When I was a kid, trick or treating was always on the 31st. At some point it was changed to Sunday afternoons, usually the Sunday before Halloween (this is a rare year when it will actually be Halloween). I assume the change was made for safety – the hours are 3 to 6, so it ends just when getting dark. I really don’t mind – it would be a pain if trick or treating were during the week. It would interfere with work for me, and homework for the kids.

  15. Dave October 27, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Let us be guided by the facts and not unfounded fears. Thanks for this call for common sense.

  16. Amy October 27, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    Thanks so much for posting that link, Beth. Although… it was painful to watch at times, and some of the comments were hard to read as well. It also makes me wonder how many of these “overprotective” mothers are suffering from extreme control issues as well as just being “a good parent”. I get a pit in my stomach when I think about what’s going to happen to these kids in 5-10yrs. Not letting your child ride a bike until they’re 9, or not letting them walk on the grass until they’re 3, or snooping around in other parents’ homes… wth?! That’s like telling your kid, I don’t trust you… or anyone else for that matter. I just think about my 2.5yo riding his trike, climbing up the big, toothchipper slide at the park, and riding fair rides on his own… and smile. He can do anything, and I’m proud! 🙂

  17. library.momma October 27, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    I’ve lived in California all of my life and we always went trick or treating on the 31st. I’m not sure what time we went out, but it seemed like it was already dark. Maybe on Sundays we came home earlier.

    Some churches and recreation centers have trick or treating the night before. I’m guessing this is so their events won’t conflict with the real trick or treating on the 31st.

    What really blows me away is when I meet parents who say Halloween is too scary for their kids, and their kids are the same age as my son, who’s been trick or treating since he was 3 and loves Halloween. I still love it although I’m too lazy to wear a costume.

  18. Gail October 27, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    C”hildren aged 5 to 14 years are four times more likely to be killed in a pedestrian–motor vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year (Centers for Disease Control, 1997)”

    I just (literally, an hour ago) had an interesting discussion with my nine year old about this. The sane statistic was quoted in Owl, a Canadian childrens’ magazine, in an article about Halloween safety that posed the question of whether trick or treating should be canceled. I was trying to explain to him that a number like this is useless out of context, that we can only understand it if we know how many child pedestrians are killed on an average day. It didn’t take much research to find out that in Canada an average of 80 child pedestrians per week are involved in motor vehicle accidents. Of those “at least one” is fatal. (

    For the sake of simple calculations, let’s assume seven child pedestrian deaths per week (though I doubt it’s that high or they would have said so).  That averages out to one per day; quadruple that and you have four children killed on Halloween. 

    I then pointed out to him that there are far more children out walking on Halloween than at any other time and asked him what the odds are that he would be one of those four children killed, particularly since he’ll be trick or treating on the same route he walks to school every day (by himself). He concluded that it’s actually a low risk activity and should be allowed to continue. 

    I assume the numbers are higher in the States, due strictly to its higher population, but still nit statistically risky for the average child. I certainly don’t think this justifies any more changes in resource allocation than dows the mythical threat of child predators.

    The problem – as Lenore, Gavin de Becker, Dan Gardner, Malcolm Gladwell, and presumably others whose work I’m not familiar with, have been saying for years – is that these sort of numbers are thrown around in the media and online without any context whatsoever and the average person doesn’t even know or care that they don’t have enough information to make an, ahem, informed decision. Heck, I have a degree in mathematics with a specialty in statistics and even I forget to look deeper at the numbers. I think it’s absolutely irresponsible reporting to put half the facts out there but I can do nothing about that. What I can do is teach my children critical thinking skills so that they’ll have the ability to question what they read. qhats really sary, though, is that our policy makers are basing (sometimes major) decisions on these exact same partial pieces of information.

  19. Gail October 27, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    Pardon the typos in the above please. It’s this blasted iPod.

  20. dara October 27, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    I have worked in schools for 14 years. If any of you had to teach the day after Halloween, you’d see why many prefer to Trick-or-Treat on the weekend. Kids come to school so exhausted, with sugar and candy trading on their minds, that it is not a good instructional day. A day of rest in between makes all the difference. By the way, I love Halloween.

  21. blu October 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks for the post Lenore.

    Here’s an article you might find interesting – a school bans children forming groups of more than three.

  22. Josh R October 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    If parents are that worried about their kids being safe while trick-or-treating, they can always go with them. I don’t think I ever went out alone, as both my parents and grandparents considered it a family activity. They would arrange to escort a few of my friends as well, and we’d all troop around getting candy while the grown-ups chatted with the homeowners and made sure we all said please and thank you.

    Only downside was that when my grandfather took us, he was sure to get into at least one long conversation about fishing, meaning we’d be standing around at one house going “Come ON granpa!” while other groups came, got candy, and left.

    Good times.

  23. jim October 27, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Josh R – Great point! How many kids today – in this world of families scattered from coast to coast – get to have that wonderful family bonding experience of KNOWING that any social interaction involving Grandpa is going to result in an incredibly long and (at the time) boring conversation about fishing – or, in our case, baseball?

  24. Gritsforbreakfast October 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    FYI, I gave your excellent Wall Street Journal column on this topic some Texas-based blog love, see here:

  25. Kari October 27, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    I grew up in Milwaukee in the 70s and we always had trick-or-treating on the Sunday closest to Halloween from 2-4 in the afternoon! We used to love stories from our parents about “the good ol’ days” when they actually trick-or-treated on Halloween at night. It took until I was an adult and lived in other places (including big, bad NY city) that I realized how strange this was. I now live in Tulsa, the “buckle of the Bible Belt” as many say, and Halloween is on Halloween. We do go out as a family, and it has become a family event that everyone looks forward to.

  26. Christine October 28, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    @Dara, when our son was in Montessori Preschool, they had ‘Fall Fun Day’ on the day after Halloween. Which meant that they rented a giant moon bounce, and stuck all the sugar hysteria induced preschoolers into it, and let them bounce for hours. I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

    @Beth Nixon, that video made my eyes cross. My favorite was the Mom that wouldn’t let her kid ride with anyone other than family, because you never know who’s on prozac. (I think maybe she needs some, herself)

    We live in Mayberry. We Trick or Treat from 5-8 in Halloween, no matter what the day of the week. We’ll have some friends over for food, then head out together. We live ‘in town’ surrounded by rural areas. So we invite some of the rural kids to come with us.

  27. RareRoastBeef October 28, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Proudly displayed on the home page of the online edition of today’s Toronto Star:

    “Children 15 and under are four times more likely to be killed on Halloween than any other time of the year”

    No context, no explanation. And in the accompanying article, no supporting information. Just another specious reason to join the stampede toward irrational, mindless fear.

  28. Hege October 28, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    @RareRoastBeef, it is discouraging how no-brain headlines are making their way even into the Toronto Star. I see a change even in the less than 7 years I’ve lived in Toronto.
    Then again, maybe they’re learning that most people don’t want to think (i.e. the recent election of a mayor with no coherent program, and “respect for taxpayers” as his only tagline, a tagline he’s been screaming even after being elected, making the void behind even more evident…)

  29. Dragonwolf October 28, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    pentamom — But see, it would actually make sense if the logic for changing the Trick or Treat night would be the school night thing and how it would conflict with school-related stuff that happens during the week. However, I live in one of the Columbus suburbs that Chip mentions. Our “beggar’s night”?


    Um…where’s the sense in that?

    According to Chip’s article, it’s so it doesn’t fall on a weekend (Fri, Sat or Sun). Even better, they came up with a system so that everyone would do it on the same day. Okay…why not just use Halloween?

    I’m only 23 years old, and had always did Trick or Treat on Halloween….until I moved to Columbus…

  30. Laura October 28, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Getting back to the original topic for a moment… does anyone but me chuckle at the irony of the woman doing the study being named “Letourneau”???

  31. pentamom October 28, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    Dragonwolf — I didn’t say *all* changes of trick or treat night were rational. 😉 And I don’t think it *has* to be changed to a weekend night — they don’t do it where I live now. I was just saying that I didn’t think it was necessarily crazy to do it, and that it almost certainly wasn’t driven by helicopter-thinking, at least not back in 1970.

  32. RareRoastBeef October 28, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    Aye, Hege, we could have us a fine old chat about the recent and catastrophic dumbing-down of Toronto politics, but we’d probably bore the pants off everyone else in the forum. As far as Hallowe’en goes, I’ll just do what I do every year: dress up like Zombie Keith Richards (that is to say, like the regular Keith Richards) and hand out those little ounce-and-a-half bottles of Jack Daniel’s fine product to all comers.

  33. Beth October 28, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    Laura, I noticed that right off and did have a big chuckle over it!

  34. RFT October 28, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Halloween wasn’t safe for this little girl that was raped and murdered while trick or trick & since she was by herself, obviously “was” a free range kid! Not anymore. You might want to let your readers know that David Hess is in fact a registered sex offender himself, so your getting a pro offender biased opinion in the article.

    Now this child rapist was not a registered offender, yet he was still a sexual predator.

  35. ebohlman October 28, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    It’s pretty obvious why sex crimes against children are down on Halloween: kids are out of their houses, the places where the vast majority of child sexual abuse takes place.

    Child molestation is an inherently secretive activity (that’s why proper protection training for kids emphasizes not agreeing to keep secrets for adults who are getting too close to them). It doesn’t happen in crowds.

  36. Josh R October 28, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    RFT, can you provide a link to your evidence that this David Hess is a sex offender? I checked the New York state sex offender registry, and although I found a David Hess, the mug shot provided in no way matched the photo on the blog that was linked to. Unless you’re claiming that the blog photo is fake and the sex offender david hess is posing as a pastor as part of a cunning plan to lull people into a false sense of security concerning child molesters…

    Also, the murder you cited happened in 1973, and while it was tragic, a single 37 year old murder is not compelling evidence on which to base a decision to forgo halloween.

  37. Josh R October 28, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Sorry, that post came off a little snarkier than I wanted it to be, however, claiming that someone is a sex offender is a serious charge.

  38. RFT October 28, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    This is Mr Hess. Lenore gives this link at the very top of the page article. He is a Pastor of a small church.

    He started this sex offender group:

    Here is the Sohopeful forum:

    Mr Hess email address is at the bottom of page in first link. I’m sure if you contact him, he will be truthful. I did not find your post “snarky”.

  39. Josh R October 28, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    OK, after a bunch more searching I found one mention in passing in an article referring to a David Hess who was a level 1 sex offender and currently serving as a pastor. Very likely the same guy.

    I didn’t find him because information on level 1 offenders is not available on the registry.

    I will leave it to others to decide how to interpret the information. I couldn’t find anything on how long ago or what his crime was, but level 1 offenders are required to register for 20 years after their crime, so it could have been quite awhile, which explains why I was unable to find anything.

  40. tommynomad October 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    I grew up trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en. As teens, my brothers and I ‘took it to the street,’ hiding behind trees and sheds and leaping out at little ones and giving them a good fright (and then candy). I once ‘dressed up’ as a boulder, reaching out and grabbing ankles of kids who walked by in the dim light of evening. All the neighbourhood kids knew us, and all of them loved our hijinks. One youngster decided to get his revenge, and toilet-papered my beloved bicycle, with a dose of shaving cream on the headset.

    *That’s* what Hallowe’en should be about.

    Sadly, I’m willing to bet next week we hear news of killjoys charging kids for ‘tricking’ their houses.

  41. RFT October 29, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    How many “free range Kids” must be raped or murdered before parents wise up & stop letting kids run loose?

    “Child molestation is an inherently secretive activity (that’s why proper protection training for kids emphasizes not agreeing to keep secrets for adults who are getting too close to them). It doesn’t happen in crowds.”

    Your wrong, Kids do get abused in public, MANY children are approached daily & molested by pedophiles. It used to be “in Secret” but no longer.

  42. HappyNat October 30, 2010 at 12:01 am #


    Care to site some stats? How much is “many”? The only “real” case you’ve brought to the table is 37 years old. What happened that night is horrible, no doubt, but one case in 38 years is amazing. How many kids have been hit by cars in the last 38 years? Or fallen out windows? Or drowned in a pool?

  43. RFT October 30, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    Isn’t one kid enough? When I said “many”, I was referring to:

    ““Child molestation is an inherently secretive activity (that’s why proper protection training for kids emphasizes not agreeing to keep secrets for adults who are getting too close to them). It doesn’t happen in crowds.”

    Need some examples?

  44. Gritsforbreakfast October 30, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    I’m aware of one other case of a sex offense against a trick or treater on Halloween (see Like the one in Wisconsin in ’73, the guy had no prior record and wasn’t on any sex offender rolls, so none of the sex-offender restrictions on Halloween would have prevented either incident.

    I can’t say there aren’t any other cases, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking and cannot identify any others, anywhere.

    By FAR more kids are hit by cars, drown in pools, or even choke to death on candy. Also, most molestation occurs with family members or trusted family friends. Kids are FAR more likely to be molested when they get home from trick or treating than they are asking for candy door to door – statistically it’s not even close.

  45. RFT October 30, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    “By FAR more kids are hit by cars, drown in pools, or even choke to death on candy. Also, most molestation occurs with family members or trusted family friends. Kids are FAR more likely to be molested when they get home from trick or treating than they are asking for candy door to door – statistically it’s not even close.”

    Whats your point again? Parents should be less safety conscious?

  46. RFT October 30, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    Would you agree that children are more safer today because of sex offender laws currently in place?

  47. pentamom October 30, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    “Whats your point again? Parents should be less safety conscious?”

    Um, no. That parents should put their energy into preventing real threats, instead of things that almost never happen.

    “Would you agree that children are more safer today because of sex offender laws currently in place?”

    The effect of the sex offenders laws is unlikely to be significant in terms of the overall increase in safety. Most of them do little to actually protect children that was not already being done. They are mostly about feeling good or about measures that have little demonstrable effect on actual child safety. For example, what real difference does it make whether a convicted sex offender lives 100 yards or 101 yards from a school building? School is the place where children are the least vulnerable to abuse or harm by anyone other than teachers, since they are under constant supervision and in large groups. And any non-disabled sex-offender is able to get anywhere he wants to go — a matter of meters of distance is a trivial factor in what someone can do to another person, if he chooses.

  48. RFT October 30, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    I agree except with the “things that almost never” opinion. Rare, maybe but they do happen. One time should just be enough. I agree that the sex offender laws should be tweaked to an extent but you have to remember why these laws were in acted in the first place, To protect children. The SOL is not a cure all & parents must do whatever is necessary to ensure children are safe guarded. The best interests of the child has to come first.

  49. Gritsforbreakfast October 30, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    RFT – My point isn’t at all that parents should be less safety conscious, it’s that they should focus more on real threats and less on phony, nearly non-existent ones that are hyped for political gain.

    As for your question “Would you agree that children are more safer [sic] today because of sex offender laws currently in place?” – I’d reply, “No,” children are LESS safe because of current sex-offender laws. Super harsh punishments discourage families from reporting crimes or testifying at trial. That’s why, for example, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault opposed “Jessica’s Law” in Texas. And the SO registry misdirects resources toward a group that statistically has very low recidivism rates while more than 95% of all sexual assaults are from first time sexual offenders (see:

  50. Gritsforbreakfast October 30, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    Whoops, that link doesn’t seem to work. See:

    “Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State’s sex offender registration and notification law,” Sandler, Jeffrey C.; Freeman, Naomi J.; Socia, Kelly M.
    Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol 14(4), Nov 2008, 284-302.

  51. Beth October 30, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    I’d need to see some proof that “many children are approached daily and moleted by pedophiles.” Daily? Many?

  52. RFT October 30, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    “I’d need to see some proof that “many children are approached daily and molested by pedophiles.” Daily? Many?”

    Heard of Google? Type these into the search engine:

    Child molested at park or mall or Walmart or whatever. The info is out there, you just gonna go look for it.

    Sarah Tofte said:

    ““25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years””

  53. Gritsforbreakfast October 30, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    RFT – Even if that’s true (and it sounds on the high end of estimates), that means 75% don’t re-offend. And the rate of re-offense vis a vis sex offenses is much lower. A sex offender who later gets a DWI or is arrested with a joint would be considered to have “re-offended” under standard recidivism definitions.

    FWIW, I’ve never heard of Tofte before you mentioned her, but when I googled the quote you gave I did find an article by her titled “Sex offender laws may do more harm than good.” So even the source you’re citing thinks the recent laws don’t make kids safer.

  54. pentamom October 30, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    “I agree except with the “things that almost never” opinion. Rare, maybe but they do happen. One time should just be enough. ”

    No. It is impossible for a sane person to live life arranging it around things that have happened somewhere, to someone, as opposed to things that are likely to happen to many people. “One time” of something happening is NOT enough to completely change what you do.

    Of COURSE you should use common sense in every situation, and OF COURSE measures should be taken that make it less likely that someone who has harmed a child will ever do it again, but you should not avoid or radically restructure activities that are safe 99.999% of the time because something, somewhere, happened to someone “one time.” If nothing else, there is the law of unintended consequences — whatever you’re not doing at the moment puts you at risk for some completely different kind of freak accident or occurrence. And besides, it’s more than a “tweak” to a law to change its focus from things that *do absolutely nothing to help a single child* to things that might actually be effective — you would need an entirely different set of laws.

    You answer to Beth was non-responsive. You said things happen “daily” to “many” children, and she asked you to back that up. Then you came back and asserted what we all know — that it does occasionally happen to a few children. “Daily and many” are different from “it happens.” Every single event is terrible, but we shouldn’t waste our efforts protecting ourselves from rare events *at the cost of* effectively dealing with things that actually do happen commonly.

    Finally, on the sex offender laws, it’s more than a “tweak” to a law to change its focus from things that *do absolutely nothing to help a single child* to things that might actually be effective — you would need an entirely different set of laws. And laws that aren’t actually effective in preventing anything (because there’s no way they could) should *not* get the credit for a decrease in crimes against children — only the things that actually *have made a difference* should get that credit, which was my point to begin with.

  55. ebohlman October 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Beth: It’s true that “many children are approached daily and molested by pedophiles.” However, in about 95% of those cases the pedophiles are (ugh!) the people closest to the child. That is, of course, something that no amount of helicoptering can prevent (one could argue that helicoptering would make it worse). What can prevent or at least mitigate it is to teach children to be self-confident, to know what appropriate boundaries are, and not to submit unquestioningly to authority (since most of the perps are in an authority relationship to the child).

  56. We Want Truth October 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I just went to RTF’s blog and didn’t like what I see. It seems RTF has an ulterior motive here.

    As the internet meme goes, “Obvious troll is obvious.”

    There’s no point wasting any breath on him.

  57. Beth October 31, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    @ebholman…yeah, I get that. But somehow I don’t think that’s what RTF is referring to.

  58. pentamom November 1, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    It was clear from the context that that is not what RFT was talking about. This is the full paragraph:

    “Your wrong, Kids do get abused in public, MANY children are approached daily & molested by pedophiles. It used to be “in Secret” but no longer.”

    He’s clearly saying that it’s a daily occurrence for many children to be molested in public places — in fact, the same post takes issue with someone saying that molestation doesn’t happen in the middle of a crowd. RFT says it does.

    But We Want Truth’s point is really the most important one here. He’s nuttin’ but a troll.

  59. RFT November 2, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    Here is a registered sex offender, who on Halloween Night 2008, raped & murdered a woman. The myth that RSO’s dont re offend on Halloween, is officially busted!

  60. Hege November 2, 2010 at 6:39 am #

    I refuse to discuss with anyone who uses google-hits as proof that something actually is a hazard, without ever taking the time to analyze the sources of that information.

  61. We Want Truth November 2, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    RFT merely throws up a straw man argument. Find one isolated incident and boom there’s proof of an “epidemic.” That’s how most societal panics get started in the first place– SARS, Y2K, etc.

    That being said, RFT is even getting the argument he’s trying to dispel wrong. That’s part of the problem with our culture today– the internet gives every schmuck with a computer the empowerment to become self-professed experts in the field.

  62. SgtMom November 3, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    Thanks for that infor, RFT. As an adult woman, I will most cetainly avoid trick or treating this halloween, since one adult woman was raped and murdered on halloween.


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