Halloween Harassment Campaigns Must End

by Diane Dimond on October 22, 2012

A Decidedly Unhappy Time for Some

 

Here we go again. Law enforcement officers nationwide are about to stage their annual pre-Halloween effort to make sure everyone listed on the local Sex Offenders Registry knows – (imagine this being said in a Bella Lugosi voice with a scary laugh at the end) THEY ARE BEING WATCHED!

This annual charade is also supposed to help the community feel safer. I’m here to tell you it is nonsense.

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.

Imagine a Lifetime of Surveillance

Those on the registry – convicts who have done their time and are trying hard to blend back into the population – will likely get a personal visit from officers. Depending on the state in which they live they may be told that they must stay home Halloween night, that they must keep their lights off and not answer the door. Many will be required to display a sign that reads something like: “No Candy At This Residence.”

There could be other restrictions too: No holiday decorations outside the home; no dressing up in costume; no attending holiday parties, haunted houses, hay rides or any other Halloween activity where children gather.

Now, let’s look at the facts. Over the last several decades there has not been one reported instance that I can find of a convicted sex offender molesting a child on Halloween night. Shall I repeat that? Despite all the hysteria I couldn’t find evidence of even one case.  Most important, a huge majority of these convicts never re-offend.

The only Halloween tragedy my research turned up was back in 1973 in Milwaukee where a little 9 year old girl, trick-or-treating by herself, went to the home of a stranger named Gerald Turner. Turner, a man with no criminal record, raped and killed the child. Using today’s guidelines Turner wouldn’t even warrant a visit since he was not a known molester.

Media Falls for the Unnecessary P.R. Campaign

Fact: Our sex registry system is foolish. It lumps in everyone who ever mooned or streaked or urinated in public with hardcore career pedophiles. A registrant may have been a teenager caught with a girlfriend in the backseat, the victim of a vindictive ex-wife who made abuse allegations or a man who, legitimately, believed his partner was over 18.

Whether they are a public urinator or Jerry Sandusky they all occupy the same space on our misguided registry. And in four states – California, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida – once placed on the list the offender is there for the rest of their lives.  Anyone with half a brain knows it’s the dedicated pedophile – that person who will always choose a child for sex over an adult – who we should spend our time watching. So why aren’t we?

Fact: No matter what you have heard sex offenders rarely repeat their crimes. Studies by Dr. Jill Levenson (and funded by the U.S. Department of Justice) have concluded the recidivism rate for sex crimes related convicts is about 5 to 5.3%. That is a whole lot lower than the recidivism rate for burglars, robbers, murderers, those who commit assault or drive drunk. Yet none of them are restricted in how they can live their lives after the justice system is done with them.

Lawyer Janice Bellucci Files Civil Rights Suit

In my opinion, every time an officer hassles a registrant around Halloween they are violating that person’s civil rights. These people are already severely restricted on where they can live, work, worship and seek entertainment. Their home address and past crimes are listed on the internet for all to see. What will the pols and the police think up next? How about curbing their movements around July 4th or Christmas time?

California attorney Janice Bellucci has just filed suit to stop Simi Valley, California from enforcing its new ordinance mandating Halloween harassment. The suit claims the law, “suppresses and unduly chills protected speech and expression.”

Bellucci, the wife of a minister, became interested in the issue after her long-time plumber wrote a book (“We’re All in This Together, by Frank Lindsay) about his experience as a sex registry lifer.

“When I read it I was shocked,” Bellucci told me on the phone. “So shocked that any group in our society would be treated that way.”

The Trick is: It is Unconstitutional

Bellucci worked with rape victims for years so she sees both side of the problem but she filed suit on behalf of ten sex registrants and their family members because, “People naturally like to commit mischief on Halloween,” she told me.

“I fear someone could see that sign outside their front door and set the (registrant’s) house on fire … or shoot a gun into the home.” She’s hoping the California court will act in time to strike down the law before the end of October.

The fact is, worried parents and police should be watching everyone on Halloween and not just one segment of the population that, statistically, is so unlikely to commit a crime. To do otherwise puts our children in danger.

How about diverting manpower to check for drug dealers or drunk drivers careening through darkened neighborhoods full of costumed kids?

Think about this. These Halloween laws are really no different than isolating segments of the population and branding them with a scarlet “A” as an adulterer or with a Star of David as a Jew. Shame on us. It is time to declare these Halloween laws for what they are: unconstitutional.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

ABQ Journal Reader Alice Benson writes:

“Dear Diane: Thank you for helping us spread the real truth about so-called sex offenders. Your October article said it all. This is a group of over 700,000 people in the US who are publically stigmatized and whose family members are suffering greatly. They may take a ray of hope as they read your article. My own ministry, Titus House, reaches into our prisons with a message of encouragement for those who wonder if they have any life left to live. Two years ago I married a man who in NM is on lifetime registration. He is a wonderful, caring person. We have become a team of encouragement. We have hope for the future and we are spreading it to others.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:38 am

ABQ Journal Reader Scott Smith:

“Hello Diane,

Just wanted to give you a quick note and tell you well done on your article about sex offenders. It makes me so mad to know who they throw in the pot of sex offenders. They are not all the same!!
I personally am not one myself but I am totally with you as far as believing they are absolutely ridiculous!
I wish the world could see what you do.
Politicians are using this as a way to get strength in the polls. It’s all at the expense of our American brethren.
Hopefully one good article at a time like yours the United States sheeple will change their mind. Well done.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

Reader Steve A. Mizera writes:

“Found your article onsexoffenderissues.blogspot.com and was impressed.
Finally, someone not afraid to point out that the king is really naked.
Keep up the good work.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:40 am

Nebraskans Unafraid writes:

“For having the courage to report on the Halloween Hoax patrols and to call them what they are: Wastes of taxpayer money.

In Nebraska, the Douglas County sheriff pulls this stunt every year and the news media cover it like it is a real news story.

We used your column on our website in the hope that we can expose this wayward Nebraska sheriff and his hoax patrol. But reporters in Omaha are soooo gullible.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am

An Anonymous Reader from Austria writes:

“Thanks you. It is wonderful to see an article that addresses the facts honestly and fairly.

I hope you and yours have a safe and happy Halloween.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

Reader Kit Ayala writes:

“What a poorly written column. I’m sure glad you’re around to tell people what is and is not nonsense. Trying to label your opinions as fact does little to improve your faulty reasoning, although it does much in identifying your very clear bias in favor of convicted sex offenders. For the sake of credibility, instead of your patronizing, “Now let’s look at the facts.” you should substitute, “Now let’s look at my biased opinions.”

This is an example of a fact: “Over the last several decades there has not been one reported instance of a convicted sex offender molesting a child on
Halloween.” “…that I can find” takes it out of the realm of fact. You
didn’t learn that in journalism school? It also begs the question, “Where did you look?” Are you aware of the ongoing problem with the failure to report child abuse even when required by law?

And can I ask you what is the basis of your personal knowledge that all convicted sex offenders “are trying hard to blend back into the
population.” Or is that once again your opinion? Are you aware that sex offenders often try to blend into society and even ingratiate themselves in a community in order to gain trusted access to potential victims?

The one Halloween tragedy that you did manage to find of the case where a child was raped and murdered on Halloween by a sex offender clearly illustrates the danger to which the laws that impose increased vigilance is aimed. I sure wish police had paid a visit to convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido one Halloween during the 18 years after he raped and kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard.

“Fact: No matter what you have heard, sex offenders rarely repeat their crimes.” Since you cite nothing to back up this premise, I assume this is another one of your opinions all dressed up like a fact, with no place to go except to reaffirm the affirmance of your opinion to support your circuitous argument. Were you to take a look at recidivism rates, you would (here the message stopped)

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Kit:
I entertain all opinions here and I’m glad to post yours. I could lay out exactly how I conduct my research for you but something tells me you’re not really interested in that. Some corrections to your comments:
In the Phillip Garrido case officers DID, in fact, visit the house on several occasions but never saw the secret hiding place where this convicted sex abuser (a career pedophile and in the category of offender that I clearly say we should be concentrating on watching) had imprisoned Jaycee Duggard and her children.
Also, the Halloween tragedy I mentioned did NOT include a convicted sex offender and it happened nearly 40 years ago. Did you miss that point?
Look, you have your opinion and I have mine. With 700 thousand names on the registry – and countless of them for minor offenses like teen-age love or mooning or urinating in public – I think its high time we sweep the list for those pedophiles who pose a real and quantifiable danger to society. To keep on the same track we are actually endangers children, I think – because while we’re distracted following the guy who peed in a public park the predator pedophiles can slip through the net….because they have spent their whole lives being THAT cunning. ~ DD

P.S. – the one line you sent me to finish out your comment made no sense in continuity so I did not add it.

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Creators Syndicate Web Site Reader Janice Bellucci writes:

“Thank you, Diane, for shedding light on this dark subject. You did a great job capturing the truth of this matter by showing that the Halloween laws passed by cities like Simi Valley do not protect children. Why? Because there are no reported cases in California of a child being assaulted while trick or treating. So why do cities pass these laws? Perhaps City Council members who vote for them believe that it will help them get re-elected. It’s time to send a clear message to these fuzzy thinkers. Don’t re-elect them!”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Creators Syndicate Web Reader Nick Johnson writes:

“Re: Bellucci – I just thought I’d take a moment and thank you as well for your efforts…
To know that there are people out there that care more for the sanctity of American rights and freedoms and the realities of society is a reassurance that we all need…
That you have the experience and motivation to fight for the right (sorry if that sounds too much like the Wonder Woman theme but, why not?) and Red, White and Blue is a Godsend!
You have a hard fight ahead of you but I wish you the best!”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Creators Syndicate Web Site Reader Nick Johnson writes:

“Thanks, Diane!
The truly scary thing I see in all of this is that we have reasonably intelligent individuals (they got elected, didn’t they?) responding like scared sheep at any minor or perceived threat to the community. They are so afraid of losing their positions that they feel the need to lash out at any aberration in the perceived norm of human behavior…
Either because of a herd mentality, pier pressure, ego or outright stupidity, we have a significant number of politicians devoting an inordinate amount of time to a threat that has never and does not exist!
In California (Orange County to be exact), there is a DA who, and let’s be fair about this, is a complete moron! He is running to every city in the county and telling folks about the imminent threat to their children by registered sex offenders. He wants them out of the parks, beaches, and anyplace that they Constitutionally have a right to go…
Of course, there is a threat out there (or threats) that need to be addressed but, as you so correctly put it, diverting attention from the fact that dangers can come from anywhere, anyone at anytime is sheer nonsense! For that matter, attacking a growing segment of society for violating an increasingly stringent set of laws and definitions established by paranoid members of our government after they have served their time and simply want to have some semblance of a life before they die, maybe even support their families, is little better than McCarthyism, Naziism or, simply, Totalitarianism!
Those that need to be monitored for violent acts should continue to be and those are the ones that should be forced to keep a low profile. However, ignoring murderers, drug dealers and the like demonstrates the sheer absurdity behind perpetuating an urban myth that children are in danger for their lives from those that, for the most part, never hurt anybody in their lives and likely never will in what is left of their shattered lives (thanks to the misguided attempts to use them for political advantage under the auspice of civil harmony)…
Perhaps some of this will change now that the Feds are going after states legalizing pot. Now that the original bane of America has reared it’s ugly head again, they can go back to a losing battle that they already know. On the other hand, instead of harassing citizens, they’ll be hounding the states. Perhaps this time, the Feds may be forced to realize that their mandate does not include the formation or perpetuation of an aristocracy (or, more accurately, a demistocracy)…”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Noozhawk Reader Harbuz writes:

“Ms. Diamond is wrong about who gets “lumped” into or makes the Sex Offender Regestry. To say that urinating in public gets you on the list is laughable. The only thing you’ll get for urinating in public is an Infraction ticket at best, and soiled fingers if you’re not careful.

The stat Ms. Diamond quotes on recividism, “recidivism rate for sex-related convicts is about 5 to 5.3 percent” is proof that keeping sex offenders accountalble is working.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Noozhawk Reader » Extremely Disgruntled writes:

“Personally I think that parents should be more concerned about razors in apples, or poisoned/tainted candy rather than anyone on the registry, or any Previous Offender. With all the tainted Tylenol, and previous other tainted/bogus candy “hysteria’s” we’ve had in the past 50 years, it shouldn’t be any different today. Protect the children, by being good parents and BEING WITH THEM! Anything else is just relying on others to protect YOUR kids.
For the previous commenter: Look up Ohio legal codes 2907.03 -A5, -A7, and -A11, which are the anti step-parent, anti College Teacher and anti Corrections Employee codes when used against FULLY CONSENTING ADULTS. These codes are Tier 3 offenses for life. All Registrants are NOT equal. That point is a valid one. Research them at codes dot orc dot gov, and self explanatory how to find them. Remember, these codes to NOT distinguish ages. So the 60 year old College Teacher can not have relations with a 55 year old consenting student. A FELONY level 3 (of 5) crime. Up to 5 years prison.”

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Sorry, Harbuz, It may sound “laughable” to you but in some states it is true. Public urination CAN get you on the sex registry.
I don’t see the recidivism rate in the same light as you do….and, one more point: There is no “A” in my last name. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Twitter Pal Barbara ?@DragonflyBlue24 writes:

“@DiDimond KUDOS! “Halloween Harassment …” Thank you 4 the courage to report on this emotionally charged topic.”

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Diane Dimond October 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

Twitter pal Paula Whitfield ?@WhitfieldPaula writes:

“@DiDimond Thanks for the Halloween Harrassment article. I have a good friend who is a RSO that basically has no civil liberties whatsoever.”

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william r. delzell October 24, 2012 at 9:19 am

This was a good article. She correctly pointed out how this registry enforcement needlessly taxes law enforcement personnel and financial resources in an effort not to see if an actual crime has been committed but as to whether or not a former sex offender has merely refused to register.

May I also add, however, that enforcement of this law may also put police officers at extra risk for their own safety in an occupation that is already dangerous enough for police officers. Enforcement of this registry might cause some sex offenders who would otherwise go straight to become enraged at the officers who come by their house to enforce compliance. I could imagine a scenario where a sex offender might decide that he or she has nothing to lose any more by booby trapping his or her property with the intent of harming or injuring any officers who come by.

We already had an incident during Christmas of 2009 in Tacoma, Washington, where an Arkansas registered sex offender walked into a Starbucks coffee shop and opened fire, killing four off-duty police officers before a fifth officer finally had to kill the murderer to protect other human lives.

So, for the safety of our law enforcement personnel who have to risk their lives for our own safety in a stressful job, let’s repeal this practice of post-sentencing registries that prevents one who has paid his or her debt to society or that causes such a person to lash out at the law-abiding. It is one thing to expect our police to risk their lives when they are trying to stop an actual real-time crime from occurring or to rescue innocent bystanders, but it is another thing to force officers to risk their own safety over a measly registration law.

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Diane Dimond October 24, 2012 at 9:50 am

William! Thanks for writing this. You know, I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t thought about officers being put in danger during these (mostly) needless visits! T I thanks for making me think outside my own box. I remember that incident in the Pacific Northwest a while back. Horrible.~ DD

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Diane Dimond October 24, 2012 at 9:51 am

DD Web Site Reader Robert Olson writes:

“This was a great article and it is about time somebody had the moral courage to say what needs to be said. I am a retired NYS police investigator but I have always had a passion for justice. I don’t know if you recall but we did correspond in the past regarding the Marty Tankleff case here on Long Island. I was a huge advocate for Marty and it kills me that the murderers of his parents are well known but will never be brought to justice for pure political reasons. I think your story has more credibility because no one would ever confuse you for a bleeding heart liberal.”

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Diane Dimond October 24, 2012 at 9:52 am

ABQ Journal Reader Judi Simon writes:

“Dear Ms. Dimond,
Thank you for this article printed in the October 20, 2012 Albuquerque Journal. It was so refreshing to read something that realistically clarified the issues involved in protecting children from sex offenders instead of simply offering knee-jerk, feel good, ineffective solutions.
I hope many readers will think about what you wrote.”

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Diane Dimond October 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm

NOTE TO READERS: If you only read a few comments here make sure this is one. It is a first-person account of the terrible consequences of our modern day SEX REGISTRY.

From Reader RFL:

“I want to commend you on your gutsy editorial regarding sex offenders. It was a rare effort to humanize the situation offenders face in the near daily shunning and dehumanization we have to deal with.

The state of New Mexico have deemed me an offender in 2008. In the intervening years I have been exposed to, and a victim of, a system nearly devoid of justice and truth. Sexual offenses today are handled in a manner most reminiscent of the Salem Witch trials that exist today. A mere pointed finger, without any other evidence, leads to conviction. My wife and I fought this for six years before finally pleading no contest to charges brought forth by her ex husband-from-hell, and supported by his daughter (out of loyalty to her biological father). We felt sure she would recant her story, but, threats and coercion by the system kept her in line. Not one person in the system ever asked me our side of it.

Prior to this conviction, I was a senior engineer and respected member of society, and loving father of two beautiful adult children.

As a result of this I was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, upon release I was sent to a halfway house for two years, the first of which I was denied ANY contact with my wife (even in prison I could talk with her daily on the phone). I had been employed in the defense industry, from which I am now barred. Jobs available to me as a felon and sex offender (registered) I am regarded as way overqualified, hence I am still unemployed nearly three years later.

My point in all this is I know I am not alone in these circumstances, it is all too common. I know too that there are many who have done awful things that are trying to stay on the straight and narrow, and deserve a chance to rejoin society.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go on so, I primarily wanted to thank you for your factual, truthful, and compelling editorial.”

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Diane Dimond October 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Twitter Friend Barbara ?@DragonflyBlue24 writes:

“@DiDimond KUDOS! Keep reporting the truth about sex offenders.U amaze me.U have UR facts correct! I challenge UR colleagues 2 do same! TY”

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