Halloween is at the end of this week. Those of us who work in the field know that this is the time of year that probation officers ask us if we have made sure all of our clients have a plan for Halloween and know they are not to participate in the holiday. Luckily, the area of the country where our practice is located does not ask for more than for our clients to not participate in the holiday. In other parts of the country, things are much different.
For example, here is a little summary of the news in the past week regarding sex offenders and Halloween.
The Patch, a news source all over the country, posted multiple articles providing detailed maps of the location of all of the registered sex offenders in their target areas. A town in Indiana performed a Halloween crackdown sweep of Sex offenders who failed to register. A news source in Ohio posted an article on how to keep your children safe from sex offenders on Halloween.
In Georgia, the Butts County Sheriff’s Office places warning signs in front of the homes of anyone on the sex offender registry for Halloween. Several people on the registry sued the Sheriff’s office and recently lost the lawsuit. The court ruled that this practice did not violate their rights.
In some states, registered offenders who are still on probation or parole are provided with a list of Halloween requirements that may include: being home after a certain time, not answering the door to children, not handing out candy, not having outside lights on, and having a sign on your door that specifically states you are not giving out candy.
We can all agree that sex crimes against children are profoundly serious and something that everyone should work to prevent. The question arises as to whether Halloween is a higher risk day than any other day of the year. To answer this question, Chaffin et a. (2009) conducted a study that analyzed child sex crime rates on Halloween.
The authors analyzed child sex crime victims from 1997 to 2005. The data came from up to 30 states. They looked at a span of days that included Halloween as some locations have trick or treat events before or after the actual date of Halloween.
There was a total of 67,307 abuse reports during the Halloween time frame over the 8-year period. The results of the analysis indicated that for the children who were abused on Halloween, 73% were female and 27% male. They were abused primarily by male offenders (94%) who had an average age of 24 years old. The main result of this study was that the distribution of sexual offenses against children during the Halloween time period did NOT significantly differ from all other days of the year.
The authors of this study also looked at other crimes committed during the Halloween time period. The most common types of crime during Halloween are theft, destruction of property and assault. Vandalism and destruction of property accounted for a significantly greater proportion of the crime around the Halloween time period. Sex crimes accounted for a little more than 1% of all Halloween crime and sex crimes against children accounted for less than .2% of Halloween crime incidents.
This data, and the fact that we know that the majority of sex crimes against children are committed by someone known to the child, call into question the efficacy of spending the valued time and resources of police and probation departments engaging in extra monitoring or policing of registered sex offenders on Halloween. Perhaps resources could be better spent policing other crimes on Halloween such as vandalism. The CDC has reported that children are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident on Halloween than any other day of the year.
Extra policing of sexual offenders on the registry during Halloween might make the public feel better or feel that their children are safer. However, it appears that these efforts are more publicity than efficacy in reality.
Chaffin, M., Levenson, J., Letourneau, E. & Stern, P. (2009). How safe are trick or treaters? An analysis of child sex crime rates on Halloween. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. (21) 3, 363-374.