The author of this post, Sandy Rozek, is communications director for Reform sznyankrdt
Sex Offender Laws, an organization that advocates for legislation based on facts and research, and for policies that support the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of law abiding, former sex offenders into society.
An open letter to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer:
A true Halloween horror happened in your state this year. A horrific auto pedestrian accident claimed the lives of three people, one of them a ten-year-old trick-or-treater. The others were family members who were with her. Additionally, three more pedestrians were injured, one, a three year old child, critically. The rest of the nation grieves with you at this tragedy.
I have read with interest during the past week of the extensive efforts that New York, along with some other states, has taken to protect trick-or-treaters from the threat that registered sex offenders pose at Halloween. Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Fischer have proudly announced Operation Halloween in press releases and announcements, and the express purpose is made clear: to protect children at Halloween from a serious threat of harm. This has been carried out, at great expense and use of resources, in spite of the fact that experts and research have verified for years that there is no increased risk of sexual harm to children at Halloween and that there is no correlation between those on the registry and Halloween. Article after article and study after study concludes that this is a problem that doesn’t exist.
And yet you carried on with Operation Halloween as though it did. Media throughout the state warned parents and children to check the registry so they would know where the registered offenders lived, and they praised Operation Halloween for keeping children safe while trick-or-treating. According to sources, “The parole officers check up on the offenders multiple times over the course of Halloween night,” and one is quoted as saying, “ ‘If they’re not there, we’ll track them down. We’ll find them tonight.’ ”
What might have been the result, I wonder, if instead of committing resources to this effort, New York had chosen instead to commit to a variety of other efforts directed toward a real risk—the reality that children are up to four times more likely to be killed in an auto-pedestrian accident on Halloween than any other night of the year.
What if, instead, money was expended on flooding the airwaves and media outlets with public service announcements cautioning both trick-or-treaters and drivers of the necessity for extra caution? Could all of those parole officers, rather than sitting and waiting for miscreant registrants to get home, or tracking them down all over the city, have been instead diverted, for the night, to traffic patrol and/or to manning intoxicated or impaired driver check-points? Could the efforts of all law enforcement have been increased toward those ends for just a few, short hours?
Would it have made a difference? This we will never know, but please let this be a lesson learned for next year. Given a choice between protecting against a non-existent problem and a very real one, please make the choice that every bit of logic dictates. – S. R.
The same goes for all the fears we inflate beyond belief — like the idea that a child playing make-believe with an imaginary bow and arrow is “violent” and must be punished. I guess it’s easier to be hysterical and then feel like you’re “doing something to safeguard the children” than to actually do the mundane but vital job of staying sane, righting real wrongs, and modeling coolheadedness. – L.