Sex Offenders and Halloween

Hi kbfsttyenh
Folks! This piece comes to us from a gal who uses the pseudonym Shelly Stow when she writes about sex offenders at her blog
Justice for All, where this post comes from. Shelly is a member of Reform Sex Offender Laws, a group that tries to keep our fears for our kids from corroding into injustice. This piece dovetails with a terrific piece by Emily Horowitz on the Huffiington Post today titled, Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders. – L


Two months ago I posted Is August Too Early to Write About Sex Offenders and Halloween? in response to yet another legislator looking to make hay by writing an ordinance making it a crime for anyone on the sex offender registry to participate in Halloween-related activities.


Now it is time to address the full topic. Why, you ask? Why advocate for not monitoring registered offenders on Halloween? What’s the harm? I’m so glad you asked.


  • Most Halloween restrictions apply to everyone on the registry, whether or not their offense had anything to do with a child. This broad-brush application is bumping up against constitutional protections. Many registrants are forced to gather in one place for special “therapy sessions” or “pep-talks” or movies shown by law enforcement. If the registrant is not under community supervision, this sounds a lot like unlawful detention to me.
  • It is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer money. There are so many other areas in which law enforcement could be gainfully occupied on Halloween other than checking that registrants have no lights on and no jack-o-lanterns on the porch or showing movies to a roomful of registrants. One of these areas is traffic duty since the only increased risk to children on Halloween is not assault by registered sex offenders but car-child accidents.
  • Many, probably even most, registrants are family men. They have children. Under these restrictions, they cannot decorate their houses with or for their children; they cannot attend the carnival at the school with their children; they cannot take their children trick-or-treating.

Now it’s time for the experts to weigh in:

This is from an academic research study:
“There were no significant increases in sex crimes on or around Halloween, and Halloween incidents did not evidence unusual case characteristics. Findings did not vary across years prior to and after these policies became popular.

“In order to contextualize sex crimes against children we examined over 5 million victimizations that took place in 30 states on or around Halloween in 2005. The most common types of crime from among the incidents reported on Halloween and adjacent days were theft (32%), destruction or vandalism of property (21%), assault (19%) and burglary (9%). Vandalism and property destruction accounted for a greater proportion of crime around Halloween compared to other days of the year (21% vs. 14% of all reports). Sex crimes of all types accounted for slightly over 1% of all Halloween crime. Non-familial sex crimes against children age 12 and under accounted for less than .2% of all Halloween crime incidents.

“Other risks to children are more salient on Halloween. According to the Center for Disease Control, children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian/motor-vehicle accident on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Regarding criminal activity on Halloween, theft and vandalism are particularly common. Sex crimes against children by non- family members account for two out of every thousand Halloween crimes, calling into question the justification for diverting law enforcement resources on that day away from more prevalent public safety concerns.”

This is from non-academic commentary:
“The intimidation campaign is a silly diversion of manpower and a waste of your tax dollars. Police and the politicians who are in search of tough-on-crime votes will tell you otherwise, but don’t believe the myth that Halloween is the night child sexual predators wait all year for. The facts tell a different story… Over the past several decades, there has not been one reported instance that I can find of a convicted sex offender molesting a child on Halloween night.”

And finally, this is a Halloween safety research and resource guide for parents published October, 2011, by a highly regarded world wide organization called There is nothing to quote from them. There is only the fact that they have researched every element of harm to children in connection with Halloween; their guide covers every possible eventuality and tells parents how to guard against it. It has many graphs, charts, and results of studies. Not one time within its 8 pages do the words “sex offenders” or “registry” appear. I believe that is called an argument from silence.

So please, enjoy Halloween; help your kids enjoy Halloween. And please spare a moment to think about the children whose Halloween enjoyment is curtailed because one of their parents is a registered sex offender and they are unfortunate enough to live in one of the jurisdictions where unneeded laws and restrictions make Halloween all trick and no treat for them.

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29 Responses to Sex Offenders and Halloween

  1. Really Bad Mum October 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Last week my 15 yr old daughter was assulted on the bus. A man in his mid to late 20’s was touching her hair then sat next to her and touched her thigh. The next day she asked if me or her father could pick her up from school so she wouldn’t have to catch the same bus ( different times ) I said no, she had to catch the bus, as she has been for the last 3 yrs and this is the first time it happened, we called the police who took her statement and are reviewing the video footage from the bus and charge the man if he is identified. They agreed about her taking the bus and said to “get back on the horse”. We have reminded her that although the changes of it happening ever again are very small if it does yell and scream and swear to get the drivers attention.
    Halloween has nothing to do with sex crimes, assaults, murders etc. this happened last week which was not Halloween.

  2. Donna October 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Not about sex offenders but — I watched an old Cosby Show episode this weekend. Cosby takes his littlest kid and some of her friends out Trick or Treating. He gives them each 2 bags – one for candy from people he knows and one for candy from people he doesn’t for their parents to examine. I would guess this to be early Cosby Show – 1st or 2nd season – based on the age of the kids, so 1984 or 1985. Already we see the media normalizing the belief that Halloween is not completely safe and people are looking to harm your kids.

  3. John October 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    @Really Bad Mum (I’m sure you’re not!), I am so sorry to hear what happened to your daughter BUT a huge kudos goes to you and your hubby for not over reacting to the situation like most parents would, and ban your daughter from taking public transportation unattended! Sooner or later, your daughter will be off on her own and getting sexually assaulted at 18 or older is no less traumatic than at 15. But like you say, if this happens again, she now know what to do and will be more independently experienced when she finally reaches adulthood. So many parents want to wait until their child is 18 before encouraging them to confront their fears. If the kid hasn’t done so by 15, more than likely, he or she certainly won’t when they reach adulthood.

  4. John October 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    @Donna….well at least Dr. Huxtabal (Bill Cosby) actually allowed his kids to go trick or treating to the homes of people they didn’t know. For many parents nowadays, it’s unthinkable for them to allow their children to go trick or treating at all, let alone, to the homes of people they don’t know!

  5. Michael F October 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    My biggest problem with trick or treating with my kids is keeping my 3 year old from trying to enter people’s houses as they open their doors to give us candy. We do a mile circuit of dozens of houses and I know maybe 6 or 8 or the people on our route and while I take most of the candy away (more to avoid over indulgence) we’ve never had a candy issue from a stranger giving us candy. I’d probably worry more about the bowls left on the doorstep for people who are out and what someone else might put IN there…but again, no incidences yet.

  6. Warren October 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Eventually Halloween will become a stay at home holiday. Where kids have a home party, watch movies, and that is about it.

    There is a family that decorated their home for Halloween, which included a couple of fake dead bodies. The community is in an uproar about it being to scary for the kids.

    Stories about parents complaining that costumes are stereotyping genders.

    More and more parents are sending their kids out earlier and earlier so they are home when it isn’t even that dark out.

    The most terrifying aspect of Halloween…… how it is being destroyed by overprotective parents.

  7. Really Bad Mum October 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    @John, thanks for the kudo’s. For about half an hour after she got home ( travelled from next town over caught the train then the bus on her own after visiting her friend ) I was trying to decide if I should call the police or just let the bus service know what happened as he and his mates were drinking alcohol and being a nuisance. I didn’t want to start a whole ” don’t let your teens catch bus” thing so I rang the police advice line and they said it was serious enough to press charges. There was more that he said and did to her but the worst was touching her as he had her blocked in the seat. I don’t believe he was a child molester or sex offender just a drunken idiot that needs to learn his actions that can be scary to others have consequences she told him repeatedly to stop touching her, if caught he will be charged with common assault ( I asked ).
    Oh and yeah I am a really bad mum, got bored about 4 days before ” Princess Bitchfaces” 9th birthday and told her that we didn’t really know if it was her real b’day as she was adopted hahaha, funniest thing ever. Oh and when I said ” out of all my drunken mistakes your my favourite” and she replied ” aww thanks mum…… Wait HEY… ” lol

  8. Linda October 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Obviously, it makes sense to be vigilant for the safety of all. But rest assured that there are no documented cases of randomly tainted Halloween candy to be found. Read this review on Snopes:

  9. Shana Rowan October 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Thanks Lenore, as always. I thought I’d link to the study done by Jill Levenson that studied the actual child sex abuse rates on Halloween. I don’t think you or your readers will be surprised to learn that out of all crimes committed on Halloween, instances of children being sexually assaulted by a stranger accounted for less than .01%. Yes, that’s less than point zero one percent. Seriously.

    When I went trick-or-treating as a kid, we avoided houses without lights on because our parents told us that those people didn’t want to be bothered by kids ringing their doorbell all night and that we should leave them alone. LOL!

  10. Steve S October 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and remember the various scares related to Halloween and on how you should never eat any of the candy until your parents inspect it. Linda correctly points out that most of these fears were not founded in reality.

    The justice system, in most cases, has a tendency to go overboard on various restrictions for people on parole, probation, etc. Unfortunately, these people don’t have much in terms of advocacy and the general public seems to support them being punished.

  11. 20percentcooler October 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Any ideas on how to have a Free Range Halloween? Ages 6, 8, 11, and 12

  12. John October 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    @Really Bad Mum…..One of the shops I covered as a government rep had an employee work for them who one could say, looked rather dubious. He had a tooth missing and a sinister looking smile. Of course, that doesn’t mean he was dubious, just that in the eyes of many, he looked that way.

    One day after lunch he came out on the shop floor laughing to no end (If I were him, I’d have been ashamed instead). As it turns out, he was at the local Burger King on his lunch break and said that the father of a 15-year-old girl followed him back to his workplace because he winked at her while waiting in line (the employee admitted to us that he did). Apparently the father had a talk with the Plant Manager about the “creepy” employee of his stalking his daughter.

    IMO, an adult man winking at a teenage girl he never met is a bit inappropriate and not the same as winking at a 5-year-old kid because they’re puppy-like cute (teenagers are well passed that stage). But does this mean he would have sexually assaulted her had they been alone? Not necessarily so we can’t assume that and perhaps the father over reacted by following him back to his workplace; however, given the adolescent age of the girl, I believe that the winking was inappropriate.

    But, IMO, it would have been equally inappropriate and creepy for him to have winked at an adult woman walking into the restaurant with her husband!

  13. marie October 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Winking at a girl is inappropriate? Spoilsport. At that age, I thought it was pretty cool to get a wink from a guy, yes, of any age. And if it was a creepy guy doing the winking, I still had a great story to entertain my friends.

    As for how to have a FreeRange Halloween…put costumes on the kids, give them each a big plastic pumpkin, send them out the door, point them to the next house that has lights on. Remind them to say “Trick or treat” and “thank you” and not to take more than one. They will be a little nervous at first but they’ll get the hang of it.

  14. Renee Anne October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    We’re relatively new in our neighborhood and this is the first year that Little Man will go trick-or-treating (he’ll be 3 in a couple weeks). We’ve only met a couple of our neighbors and frankly, I think this will be the prime opportunity to meet them. Am I worried about anything happening? Yeah but only because Little Man doesn’t listen when I tell him to “stop” (meaning that unless I’m holding his hand, he’d run right in the road and not stop when told). I’m more worried about that than I am about someone grabbing either of us and doing unspeakable things. In fact, I’m not worried about that.

  15. John October 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    @marie….well, I know there are other schools of thought on that and I respect those opinions BUT, let’s just say, winking at a teenage girl I never met is not something I would do.

  16. John October 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I LOVE Halloween and yes, I am a single guy who loves giving out candy to kids who come to my door trick or treating! Eeeek, I must be some creep! But the number of kids trick or treating seems to be diminishing because I always end up with an excessive amount of candy left. Now our church holds a “Fall Festival” for the kids who come dressed in costumes (dressing as the devil or a witch is not allowed) and they have games and candy in the church hall. I love attending that too and usually am torn between that and staying home and handing out candy. So one year I left a big bowl full of wrapped candy out for the trick or treaters to help themselves to and surprisingly, the candy was down but not gone when I had arrived home. So the kids did indeed exercise self-control when helping themselves!

  17. oncefallendotcom October 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    I happen to be born on Halloween. I would fight tooth and nail if I ever had to live under the myriad of Halloween laws, even though I don’t give out candy or put out decorations. I will TP the yards of pols who come with these laws. They need the extra TP anyways because they’re full of crap.

  18. In the Trenches October 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Politicians have a disturbing and consistent habit of completely ignoring criminologists when it comes to making laws. Until they start actually listening to evidence and acting from an informed position, they will not have my respect or my vote.

  19. In the Trenches October 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    As to the winking business, it may be cultural. I used to see a lot of it in Ireland and other countries. Nothing to it; just fun. If in your culture winking at a pretty girl is automatically code for “I am a creep who is only substituting closing one of my eyes for sexually assaulting someone”, then I feel certain that something is being lost in the translation.

  20. KH October 21, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    The funny thing is, as (apparently) more and more parents in the US are keeping their kids from traditional trick-or-treating, more and more kids in Germany are taking it up– they’ve seen it in Hollywood movies and think it’s a great way to get free candy…

  21. J.T. Wenting October 22, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    “I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s and remember the various scares related to Halloween and on how you should never eat any of the candy until your parents inspect it. Linda correctly points out that most of these fears were not founded in reality.”

    not just Halloween (in fact we didn’t have it here back then).
    But we were told as kids to never go near the neighbour’s house as there was a “weird old woman” living there, who had a lot of cats (which of course in our minds as kids growing up on Grimm’s fairy tales, the real ones, not the Disney version, instantly translated her into a child eating witch with warts on her nose).

    Turned out later she was indeed weird (she had untreated psychiatric conditions), the house was indeed reminiscent to a witch’s cottage in how unstable and cluttered it was, but she was a very kind, old, friendly, and helpful lady who was there for us when my parents needed help around the house as my mother was in hospital, despite her being very old and frail.

  22. Really Bad Mum October 22, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    @John, I would not have done anything if he had winked at her or only spoke to her but I was concerned by the fact he sat next to her blocking her in then touched her thigh. She knows how to ignore stupid comments or silly gestures but when a grown man lays his hands on a kid who only turned 15 the week before that’s where I draw the line.

  23. Emily October 22, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    J.T. Wenting–I’m glad you got to know that “weird” woman, and found out that she was actually nice. Have you ever watched the show Road to Avonlea? On that show, there’s a woman named Peg Bowen, who the kids believe to be a witch, and the adults just think is strange, but she turns out to be really nice, and helpful. For example, in one episode, Davey Keith confides in Peg Bowen that he’s nervous about the school spelling bee, because Hetty King, the schoolteacher, has a very intimidating approach, and forces students who make mistakes, to sit in the corner and wear a dunce cap. So, Peg Bowen brews up a “potion” that Davey Keith then drinks, and he does well in the spelling bee the next day. When he returns to Peg Bowen’s house for more potion, she reveals to him that the potion wasn’t actually real; it was him all along, and all she did was help him to be more confident. Anyway, there are other stories in which she helped out from “behind the scenes” as well, and I think that Peg Bowen’s character really conveys a positive message about getting to know people before you judge them. The thing about Peg Bowen is, if people are prejudiced towards her, and just assume she’s a scary witch, she acts hostile towards them, and “confirms” that prejudice in their minds. However, if people approach her with kindness (like the kids do–Davey Keith in that one episode, but before that, I know that Sara Stanley met her, and sort of became friends with her), then she extends kindness back to that person. So, basically, she treats people the way they treat her, which isn’t always the best way to interact with the world, but you can kind of understand why–she’s been treated like a pariah for so many years, for no good reason at all, aside from being “different.” When you think about it, the only things that make Peg Bowen seem “strange” or “witchlike” are the fact that she lives alone with her cats, and she’s very well-versed in home remedies for common illnesses, which were a much bigger deal at the turn of the 20th century, when Road to Avonlea takes place.

  24. John October 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    @Really Bad Mum….as far as the winking incident that I had sighted in a previous post, it is not something I would ever do to a teenage girl I don’t know and I still think it’s inappropriate BUT at the same time confronting a stranger who winked at your teenage daughter, particularly in an aggressive manner, would be over reacting IMO. That is something you just have to let go. BUT confronting a stranger who deliberately touched your daughter’s thigh and/or calling the police on him (as you did) is definitely NOT over reacting. Sounds like you handled the situation perfectly and it sounds as if the guy needs his hands slapped!

  25. Michelle October 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Sigh, here’s what I don’t understand. If someone really is that much of a danger to society, why do we let them out of jail? And if their actual crime wasn’t bad enough to merit life (or death) in prison, and they’ve paid their debt to society, why don’t we leave them alone? It seems like some people are determined that even small mistakes should ruin a person’s entire life.

    Personally, the only issue I have with my kids going trick-or-treating all on their own is that I want to go, too. I love Halloween, and have gone trick-or-treating almost every year since I was born. I compromise by insisting on a certain amount of “family time,” where we all go together, then I take the tired little ones home and let the bigger ones go off on their own. That way everyone gets what they want!

  26. Greg Allan October 23, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    Meanwhile adults are increasingly sexualising these sorts of celebrations. Last Christmas an insurance outlet near my office ran a promotion involving a young woman outside their store in a santa costume that belonged in a brothel. For the first time in my life I officially complained about somebody else’s attire.

  27. Donna October 23, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    “Meanwhile adults are increasingly sexualising these sorts of celebrations.”

    And are letting their daughters sexualize them. I went to a Halloween store this weekend with my daughter, who can’t decide what she wants to be for Halloween this year, to look at costumes. I couldn’t believe what was being sold as children’s costumes. The blatant sexuality was amazing. I am totally not a prude when it come to my child’s clothing but I wouldn’t have bought half of the costumes there. Not only where they completely weather inappropriate, but they looked like they belonged on a street prostitute, not a 8 year old child.

  28. Shelly Stow October 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks for all the comments. As far as the actual risks to children in regard to the various areas, here are the facts:

    Increased risk from sex offenders on Halloween: NONE. No instance can be found of a child being molested or bothered by a registered offender in connection with Halloween. Studies find zero increased risk.

    Risk from poisoned or tampered with candy or fruit: NONE. The only instance of poisoned Halloween candy was in the ’70’s when a father poisoned his own children’s Halloween candy in order to collect their insurance. His daughter died; his son did not.

    Increased risk from auto/pedestrian accidents: FOUR TIMES. Children are four times more likely to be killed by such accidents on Halloween than any other day of the year.

    So law enforcement, if any are reading this: We don’t want you checking whether registrants have their lights on or not or x-raying candy. We want you on traffic patrol.

  29. Rick October 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Well i think that all these bs laws only hurt people. I know a guy who is a registered sex offender. I have known him for yrs and when he got into this mess i could not believe it . If people knew him you would know he is nowhere close to been a bad person, he was charged with online solicitation of a minor who was 16. To make a long story short, he was put on probation and on the registry. Its been 5 yrs since then and he now has a 3 yr old child. Its heart breaking when his child tells him to take him trick or treating. Like i said this guy just made a mistake and he did something stupid just cuz he chatting with a 16 yr old girl which by the way was a cop not even a teenager. I think that the cases should be taken case by case and give people the chance to redeem themselves. It is also the communites fault that laws dont change and become stricter and harder the public needs to be informed correctly and most important the public needs to get educated and not be instilled with fear from the media.