Patch wants to help H-F parents keep their kids safe this Halloween. As the bewitching hour nears, become familiar with regulations regarding registered sex offenders in your area.
Rules for Halloween
In July 2005, a new state law was passed barring registered sex offenders from participating in any holiday event involving children, including Halloween. This same law also prohibits sex offenders from dressing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
During Halloween, sex offenders are not allowed to distribute candy to children; however, the law does give leeway to sex offenders who are parents or legal guardians of children under age 18 living in the home. While those sex offenders are still barred from handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, other household members can participate in Halloween activities.
To avoid violating the law, registered sex offenders often are advised by police to keep porch lights turned off to avoid attracting children on Halloween and to not answer the door. Registered sex offenders also are prohibited from leaving the house dressed in costumes.
"They can wear a costume if they are home," Master Sgt. Isiah Vega, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police told Oak Lawn Patch last year. "But if they leave the house in costume, it's considered participating in a holiday event involving children."
Registered sex offenders who break the rules may be subject to fines or revocation of their parole or probation.
Who Needs to Register?
Persons convicted of misdemeanor or felony sex crimes involving children under age 18 as well as adult victims are required to register their addresses with the local law enforcement agency in the communities where they reside once a year, under the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act. The same rules apply to out-of-state sex offenders who move to or work in Illinois, as well as out-of-state students attending a state college or university.
The Illinois State Police maintain a detailed Sex Offender Registry of all of the state's registered sex offenders that is available to the public. There, citizens can look up and find the registered sex offenders living in their own communities. Local police departments throughout the state feed information about the individual sex offenders registered in their jurisdictions to the state database.
Similar requirements for registration are also in effect for sex crimes committed against adults — especially adults with disabilities.
A sex offender must register annually in person at the local police department for the duration of the required 10-year registration period.
In addition, registered sex offenders are prohibited from residing within 500 feet of a school, daycare center, youth center or other facility catering to children under age 18.
A Safe Halloween
Vega said parents can do their part to ensure a safe Halloween for their children by visiting the Illinois Sex Offender Registry to identify registered sex offenders in their neighborhood, and by not allowing children or teens to trick-or-treat alone.
Editor's note: The information used in this article originally appeared on Oak Lawn Patch in 2010. The local sex offender information is provided by the Illinois State Police.