Child sex offenders warned to stay clear of kids tonight

City officers deliver reminders not to dispense Halloween candy

October 31, 2007|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun reporter

Police officers and parole and probation agents fanned out across the city last night to visit the homes of registered child sex offenders to remind them that they are not allowed to hand out candy as part of Halloween trick-or-treating.

State officials sent letters to offenders in September warning them that they may not participate in tonight's celebration. The letters included "no candy" signs that offenders can place in a window. Offenders also may not turn on their porch lights or have Halloween decorations. They are forbidden from visiting malls where children might congregate, as well as Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

The initiative was designed to protect children, but it is also an opportunity for police and parole agents to touch base with offenders and confirm addresses and telephone numbers. Nearly 1,400 registered sex offenders live in Baltimore, and city police say they visit their residences twice a year, not including Halloween.

Communities across the nation have implemented similar Halloween programs. In California, officials rely on Operation Boo to keep kids away from the homes of known child sex offenders, and in Virginia, Operation No Trick or Treat has been in place since 2002. New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee also send law enforcement officials to check on sex offenders on Halloween.

This is the second year that Baltimore City and Baltimore County police have teamed up with state parole and probation agents to keep watch over sex offenders.

"Last year was very much of a success for this Halloween initiative," said Lt. Thomas J. Uzarowski, who heads up the city Police Department's Sex Offender Registration Unit. That year, the sweep team consisted of 17 police officers and 11 parole agents who visited 91 registered sex offenders. Last night, 12 police officers and 11 parole agents had a goal of visiting 220 sex offenders. Only those convicted of violent sex offenses or those involving children were targeted.

Uzarowski said the Police Department decided to expand the effort because it was such a success last year. He said that out of the 91 residences police visited in 2006, 45 offenders were found to be in compliance with state law that requires them to update their address every time they move. There were questions about the rest, and Uzarowski said that after police investigated the cases, several offenders were prosecuted.

"It was a very effective way to check in on them," he said.

Detective John A. Moore, a member of the Sex Offender Registry Unit, was one of those officers who was out knocking on doors and ringing doorbells last night. At a house in the 3200 block of Ellerslie Ave., Moore spoke with the housemate of a sex offender and was able to confirm that the man had a "no candy" sign and that he would use it today.

Moore was joined at the door by Donna McAllister-Bailey, a parole agent who also spoke to the housemate. She also checked the sex offender's work schedule and confirmed that he would be at work tonight. She told the housemate that his friend would have to call his parole agent to get a waiver for the night - there is also a curfew for sex offenders on Halloween. They must stay inside from 6 p.m. today until daybreak tomorrow unless they have permission to do otherwise.

Many of the sex offenders that the team visited were not at home. In such cases, the police detective and parole agent left letters for the offenders reminding them of their next parole agent visit as well as their legal obligation to update their address. The letters were stuffed in mailboxes and in door jambs.

Moore and McAllister-Bailey visited residences all over northern Baltimore. When they pulled into the parking lot of a public housing complex, they looked puzzled. It is against the law for some sex offenders to reside in public housing units, they said. Moore and McAllister-Bailey promised to research the issue. The sex offender they came to visit at the complex, in the 800 block of E. 30th St., was not at home. Children, some in Halloween costumes, played outside.

At another house, this one in the 1400 block of W. 36th St., the team reminded the landlord of a sex offender who lived in her basement to make sure he put the "no candy" sign in the front window.

When McAllister-Bailey told the landlord that she couldn't turn on the porch light tonight, the woman said it wouldn't be a problem since she didn't have one. Said the parole agent: "Oh, you make my job easy."

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