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Murrieta warns sex offenders not to interact with children on Halloween

The city's police chief sent letters to 43 residents who have been convicted of sex crimes with children, suggesting that they leave their porch lights off and not distribute candy.

October 26, 2010|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times

For a third year, Murrieta police have mailed letters to child sex offenders suggesting that they leave their porch light off on Halloween and post a sign stating that they are not giving out candy.

"To avoid any unnecessary allegations of impropriety with minors, I strongly suggest you protect yourself by voluntarily refraining from interacting with the children during the trick-or-treat holiday," says the letter from Police Chief Mark Wright.

It was sent to the 43 registered offenders living in the city who have been convicted of sex crimes against children, said Lt. Bob Davenport.

Police historically haven't logged any crimes perpetrated by sex offenders on Halloween, Davenport said. But they send out the letters as "a precaution."

Murrieta's action follows a broader pattern of cities in Riverside County, and across the nation, attempting to impose bans or otherwise clamp down on the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween.

San Jacinto is considering an ordinance that would prohibit those convicted of child crimes from decorating their houses for Halloween or distributing candy.

The city of Perris threw out a similar proposal after concerns about civil rights violations were raised. The San Jacinto law, if adopted, would bar registered sex offenders from having any kind of trick-or-treat display that would draw attention to their home, said City Manager Tim Hults.

San Jacinto's police chief indicated that she had a good handle on the 86 local offenders and didn't perceive them as an unusual threat for the holiday, Hults said. But Valley Watch, the citizen's group that suggested the ordinance, pushed the council for more discussion of it, he said.

A University of Oklahoma researcher examined Halloween laws against sex offenders and found that the holiday did not produce a spike in sex crimes against children. Study author Mark Chaffin found that children had a much greater risk — about four times more than normal — of getting hit by a car while out trick-or-treating.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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