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Law enforcement visits registered sex offenders on Halloween

  • Birdsall Obear

Wisconsin requires people who have been convicted of certain sex crimes to register as sex offenders. This registry is intended to warn the public about the possibility of repeat offenders in their neighborhoods, and to help the authorities keep track of offenders. However, being placed on the registry comes with many other restrictions and limitations, official and nonofficial.

One of the official restrictions was in the news recently during Halloween celebrations. Registered sex offenders are prohibited from participating in trick-or-treating activities. They can't have candy inside or outside their homes, they can't wear costumes, they can't put up Halloween decorations, and they must turn off their porch lights, so as to discourage children from visiting. To ensure that registered offenders are complying with the law, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections sends teams out to visit the homes of certain registrants. The agency claims it made 2,200 such visits in 2018, and arrested 43 people for violating the requirements of their supervision. 

The stated purpose of these restrictions and visits is to protect children, but it's not clear that they help. In fact, the Department of Corrections acknowledges, there is no reported increase in the number of sex crimes associated with Halloween. There is, however, a well-documented increase in the number of children injured in traffic accidents as they cross the street while in search of candy. Some activists argue that law enforcement should concentrate its Halloween efforts on crosswalks instead of at people's homes. 

Wisconsin law lists more than 30 crimes as requiring the convicted to register as sex offenders. Not all of these crimes involve children, and many of the people convicted of these charges are not threats to children. Still, they must be listed on a sex offender registry and face other restrictions that can have profound implications for where they will live and work.

Everyone who is accused of a crime deserves a defense and should speak to a criminal defense attorney about their options for defending themselves and their futures.

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