Welcome to October, Halloween month, when law enforcement and the news media try to frighten you under the pretense of promoting public safety.
As we inform you every year, non-family sex crimes against children on Halloween are virtually non-existent. Recent research in Nebraska shows that the reoffense rate of former sex offenders is extremely low.
Despite these facts, you probably will hear about Halloween “sex offender patrols” in the weeks ahead. In light of the facts, these patrols waste taxpayer dollars and distract law enforcement from its mission of protecting the public. Halloween “sex offender patrols” are hoaxes. A study done by the University of Nebraska-Omaha School of Criminology and Criminal Justice shows that former sex offenders reoffend at a rate of less than 5 percent at the most, contrary to what you probably believe. Here is a link to the research.
This report found that as tiny as the reoffense rate is, it still went up after Nebraska enacted a law that placed all former offenders no matter their risk to reoffend on the hate-offenders-and-their-families website. That likely is because Nebraska’s new law caused former offenders to lose jobs, homes and social networks. Research elsewhere has shown that when people’s lives are damaged in this way, they are more likely to turn to crime.
According to four respected researchers, there is no reason to waste law enforcement resources on publicity stunts like “Halloween sex-offender patrols.” The researchers are Mark Chaffin, University of Oklahoma; Jill Levenson, Lynn University; Elizabeth Letourneau, Medical University of South Carolina; and Paul Stern of Snohomish, Wash. Here is their conclusion:
“This study found no significant increase in risk for non-familial child sexual abuse on or around Halloween.” The study spanned nine years of data, 1997-2005. The researchers said that “Halloween” policies have no impact on crime.
A Nebraska nonprofit group, Families Affirming Community Safety Inc. (FACTS), asked the Douglas County Sheriff’s office to produce evidence that a registered citizen has ever harmed a child on Halloween in Douglas County – EVER. The sheriff could not produce any such evidence. He did cite Halloween-patrol arrests from another jurisdiction, but those arrests were NOT for crimes against kids. They were for technical violations of laws such as requiring registrants to shut off porch lights on Halloween.
Contact Lisa L. Sample, Ph.D., a criminal justice expert (contact info below), for accurate context about Halloween registrant patrols.
Omaha-based Criminal Justice Expert Lisa L. Sample, Ph.D.
Dr. Sample is Professor and Reynolds Professor of Public Affairs and Community Service, University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is also the Masters Program Coordinator for the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She conducts research in juvenile and criminal justice sentencing disparities, drug control policies, prison reentry programs, and sex offender behavior and policies.