Study suggests no increase in sex offense risk on Halloween

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Halloween is just around the corner, a night many children look forward to. But one that can be scary for parents worried about sex offenders. But one study suggests the threat just isn't there.

In the Willow Lawn area, there are 11 sex offenders listed on the state police registry. On Halloween, police across the state watch the ones that are under supervision. But that study suggests police could be put to better use that night. Parents want that added layer of protection for their kids.

At Halloween Express in Chesterfield, the race is on to find the best costume. 14-year-old Paige Lawson is hunting for accessories.

"I'm a lion. I'm going to have horns and a tail and everything," said Paige Lawson.

Lawson's mom says special programs that monitor sex offenders on Halloween give her one less thing to worry about.

"That's the one night that your kids are all out, and it's dark, and they're running to trick or treat, and you don't know who they're running up to," said Donna Lawson.

But a study of 67,000 sex crimes against children over nine years found no significant increase in risk for sexual abuse on Halloween. Researchers say that may be because children are in groups. But Lawson says kids can and sometimes do wander off.

"Every year we go to the Fan to trick or treat and there are thousands of people there and any moment you could lose your child in that huge mass of people," said Lawson.

3,700 sex offenders on probation or parole in Virginia will be watched this Halloween through either home visits or meetings. State police say the best defense is the sex offender registry: where you can get a list of offenders in your neighborhood by just typing in your zip code.

"I check my own neighborhood. I check the neighborhoods of my family and friends," said Rachel Guyton-Gilliam.

But this mom of an 11-year-old agrees, the additional police protection, gives her piece of mind.

"I do feel safer knowing it's there because those parents aren't aware of the sex offender registry maybe they don't know to look," said Guyton-Gilliam.

The study was published last year for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Researchers say protecting children from traffic would be a better use of police resources.  State police say it doesn't cost them any more to check on sex offenders on Halloween.

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