Friday, October 30, 2015

Scott Daugherty: How Dangerous are Sex Offenders on Halloween? ......OR....... Police to Keep Close Eye on Sex Offenders at Halloween ......OR....... Officers to keep close eye on sex offenders at Halloween

WHY DID the Article Title AND Link Change 7 hours AFTER posting on V.P.'s website? 

                2nd Title and link: Police to keep close eye on sex offenders at Halloween

                3rd Title and link: Officers to keep close eye on sex offenders at Halloween

The first title (below) fit the subject of the article; the second/third indulges the unfounded fears of parents and the myth-based VA-DOC Halloween program. 
Well, at least the print (paper) version of the article had the better title!


Original Title:
How dangerous are sex offenders on Halloween? October 30, 2015
By Scott Daugherty
State and federal probation agents plan to keep a close eye this Halloween on registered sex offenders - at least those still under their supervision. 

Some sex offenders living in Chesapeake, Hampton and Newport News will have to attend special meetings during prime trick-or-treating hours. Under threat of jail, others must stay indoors with their front porch lights dark while local and state police conduct random visits. 

Virginia Department of Corrections officials cast the initiative - now in its 15th year - as a way to protect children from possible sexual abuse. A spokeswoman for the U.S. probation office said it's meant to "reduce risk to the children of the community on Halloween night." 

Advocates for reforming the nation's laws governing sex offenders, however, decry the special meetings and home visits as a waste of resources. They cite a 2009 academic study to claim there is no evidence children are more at risk of being molested by a stranger on Halloween than on any other night.

 "This is fear-mongering, plain and simple," said Mary Davye Devoy, an advocate for reforming Virginia's Sex Offender Registry. "They are addressing a risk that doesn't exist." 

The director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University agrees.

"They ignore the real dangers children face," said Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor with the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

The study often referenced by Devoy and other advocates was published in the September 2009 edition of "Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment." 

Using FBI statistics, researchers examined 67,045 nonfamily sex crimes reported between 1997 and 2005 involving children under 13. Using a day-by-day comparison, they found no significant increase in the number of children sexually assaulted by a nonfamily member on or just prior to Halloween.

"Halloween was pretty typical when compared to other days," said Jill Levenson, an associate professor of social work at Barry University in Florida who helped write the study with Letourneau. 

She said about 2 out of every 1,000 Halloween crimes involved a report of a nonfamily member sexually abusing a child.

Lisa Kinney, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, did not respond to calls and emails regarding the study and Devoy's complaints. Karen Redmond, the spokeswoman for the U.S. probation office, declined to comment. 

Sex offenders under state supervision who live in Chesapeake, Hampton and Newport News must attend the meetings, as must sex offenders under federal supervision who live anywhere in the region. Norfolk police plan to send two officers to assist with the federal meeting. 

State-supervised sex offenders who live outside those three cities will have to stay home with their porch lights off.

The state and federal government place no special Halloween restrictions on sex offenders who are not under supervision. 

Levenson, Letourneau and Devoy argued local and state resources could be better spent on Halloween by having police worry less about sex offenders and more about directing traffic or cruising for speeders. 

Children 5 to 14 are four times more likely to be fatally hit by a car while walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year, according to a 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"The real risk children face is getting hit by a car," Letourneau said. 

Devoy compared the "myth" of the sex offender lurking on Halloween to the "myth" of degenerates putting razor blades in candy. 

"People want a bogey man," Devoy said. "They want someone to fear and hate and protect their children from, and what better person than a sex offender."