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On Halloween, many sex offenders must post 'No Candy Here' signs

The trend is growing among states and cities. Some sex offenders are also ordered not to wear costumes or answer the door on Halloween.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 31, 2009


A growing number of convicted sex offenders around the US will spend this weekend with a Halloween version of a scarlet letter hanging on their front porches.

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A Georgia lawmakers hopes his state will join several others – including Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, and Louisiana – and dozens of cities, towns, and counties across the US that now order registered sex offenders to put out a "NO CANDY HERE" sign.

It's a gambit to warn trick or treaters against possible molesters. But it also raises constitutional and societal questions over identifying America's more than 500,000 registered sex offenders by where they live.

"There's a lot of fake monsters running around on Halloween, but there are some real ones, too," says Georgia state Rep. Rob Teilhet, who is running for attorney general. He calls Halloween "a unique time period of vulnerability" for children.

More state parole officers are ordering convicted sex offenders not to answer their doors, decorate their porches, or wear costumes to greet kids on Halloween, experts say.

In Miller County, Texas, registered sex offenders are required for the first time this year to report to counseling sessions on Halloween night, in order to keep them away from trick or treaters.

Last year, Maryland pulled back from mandating "no candy here" signs featuring a pumpkin after the display became the butt of late-night TV jokes. (The state said the jokes weren't the reason the state pulled the pumpkin signs and replaced them with signs showing only the words "no candy here.")

With millions of costumed kids skipping down darkened streets, it's little wonder that sex offenders have become real-life bogeymen for some parents and politicians.

But even organizations that work on behalf of sexual-assault victims suggest that some efforts seem intended more for political show than for addressing a real problem. Most sexual assaults, including those involving kids, aren't between strangers, experts note, but between people who know one another.