How to avoid sex offenders, predators on your Halloween trick-or-treating route | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Whether your neighborhood is trick-or-treating the weekend before Halloween or waiting until Tuesday night, there’s an important step families should take before heading out for the sweet adventure: Check your route for sex offenders.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sexual Offender and Predator Database allows anyone to search where offenders might be in their neighborhood, by putting in their address, ZIP code and then selecting anywhere from a 1/4-mile to a 5-mile radius.

This year, the city of Jacksonville says it will NOT enforce a long-standing law, requiring registered sex offenders to post signs outside their home on Halloween that say “no candy here.” That’s because it’s being challenged in federal court. So if you are concerned about sex offenders and predators coming in contact with your children while they trick-or-treat, you will need to do your own homework to avoid their homes.

Here are the steps to search for nearby offenders:

  • Type your address into the neighborhood search.

  • Select the radius you wish to search in the drop-down window (1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, 4 mile, 5 mile).

  • Click the “Search” button to show results.

  • If you click on an icon on the map, it will show a pop-up box with the name, address and picture of the offender or predator.

  • You can also switch to a list view by clicking “Show List.” The list includes how far the offender or predator lives from you and a link to their FDLE flyer.

  • The flyer includes descriptive information, and when/why the person was labeled a predator or offender. The flyers can be downloaded as PDFs and printed.

  • The list view also offers a link to “track offender.” For more information on the Florida Offender Alert System and how to sign up, click here.

The FDLE also has an app to help families track when sex offenders move into a neighborhood. To download the free app, search “FDLE Mobile App” in the Google Play Store or “FDLE” in the Apple App Store. FDLE reminds users the app should never be used in an emergency.

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Sex offenders also have specific rules about what they can and can’t do around Halloween, depending on what county they live in.

We’ve compiled a county-by-county breakdown of those rules and regulations below, along with what area sheriff’s offices are planning as far as enforcement and alternative safe events for families.

Duval County

In Jacksonville, registered sexual offenders and sexual predators live in almost every neighborhood, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

According to city ordinance, sexual offenders and sexual predators in Duval County must abide by these laws:

  • It is unlawful for any sexual offender or sexual predator to participate in any Halloween party or event if the event targets non-familial children.

  • Any person designated as a sexual offender or sexual predator shall avoid all Halloween-related contact with children.

  • From 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., on Oct. 31, a sign must be posted at any sexual offender’s or sexual predator’s residence, stating, “No candy or treats here.”

  • All outside residential lighting must be off during the evening hours after 5 p.m. Oct. 31.

  • No Halloween decorations can be visible from the exterior of any sexual offender’s or sexual predator’s residence.

Offenders who don’t comply can face a fine of up to $500, up to 60 days in jail or both. For more specifics on the regulations, click here.

Because of an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by two registered sex offenders, city attorneys said the portion of the law requiring offenders to post “No Candy Here” signs outside their homes on Halloween will not be enforced.

However, the Sheriff’s Office has pre-planned operations to check that offenders and predators are in compliance with all the rest of the rules in the ordinance.

Parents can also use the FDLE database (see info above) or download the app to check their neighborhoods for offenders or predators.

St. Johns County

In St. Johns County, sex offenders are not permitted to participate in any holiday event, decorate their homes or dress up in costumes that would “attract, entice or lure children.”

Registered sexual offenders and predators are also banned from attending any holiday events geared toward children who are not in their families.

A recently approved change to a St. Johns County ordinance also bans sexual predators/offenders from being on or within 1,000 feet (a Safety Zone) of a St. Johns County park and recreation center, school, daycare center, arcade, school bus stop (when children are present), YMCA/YWCA, designated Public Library Areas, public or private playgrounds, Boys and Girls Club’s facilities, youth campgrounds, or another other similar location or facility that is designed for or primarily used by children.

Sex offenders are also banned from having visible Halloween decorations from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Halloween. And all residential lighting must be turned off after 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 or any other day Halloween is celebrated.

Offenders also can’t display:

  • Inflatables

  • Holograms or projections

  • Children’s characters or other interactive displays

  • Decorations that line a pathway to a door

Any offender caught not following the ordinance in the county can face a fine of up to $500, up to 60 days in jail or both.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Peret Pass said the department’s SPOT team goes around the county each year on Halloween making sure those who fall under the county ordinance are complying with the rules. The team changes its tactics and patterns every year to be sure offenders don’t know exactly when they’ll be stopping by.

St. Johns County also has an option for parents to track when sex offenders move into an area. Parents can go to the SJSO Offender Watch page and put in addresses where they plan to trick-or-treat, or that they visit often or where their kids spend a lot of time, and then sign up for email alerts to be notified when sex offenders move into those areas. For more information, email [email protected].

For more on the St. Johns County rules, click here.

Nassau County

Sex offenders in Nassau County are not permitted to participate in any holiday event involving children, including distributing candy on Halloween or wearing costumes that might attract children.

Offenders must avoid all contact with children related to Halloween; must not place or allow any Halloween displays from their home; must turn off all exterior lights after 5 p.m. on Halloween; and cannot display any Halloween decorations.

Any offender caught not following the ordinance in the county can face a fine of up to $500, up to 60 days in jail or both.

For more on the Nassau County ordinance, click here.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said his department checks every month as well as during Halloween to be sure offenders are complying with the law. Leeper said they want families to have fun but also want to be sure kids are safe on Halloween.

To help families have a safe place for Halloween fun, the Sheriff’s Office is hosting a Trunk or Treat event at its headquarters from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at 77151 Citizens Circle in Yulee.

Nassau County Trunk or Treat (Provided by Nassau County Sheriff’s Office)

Clay County

In 2019, the Clay County Commission passed an updated ordinance that specifically prohibits offenders from participating in Halloween activities, including distributing candy to children or other items to children on Halloween or wearing costumes for the primary purpose of entertaining or attracting children.

The ordinance requires sexual offenders and predators to avoid all Halloween-related contact with children, turn off the exterior lights of their homes after 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 and not decorate their homes. Halloween events in which the sexual offender or sexual predator is the parent or guardian of the children involved, and no non-familial children are present, are exempted from the ordinance.

To read the full ordinance, click here.

Members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office also monitor offenders and predators and will remind offenders of the specific rules they are under regarding Halloween.

Clay County deputies encourage parents to check the FDLE website (see info above) for a detailed list of offenders in their area.

The Sheriff’s Office is also hosting a Trunk or Treat from 5-9 p.m. Thursday at the Middleburg Walmart at 1580 Branan Field Road.

Flagler County

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Unit is collaborating with Probation and Parole Services to make visits to the homes of all registered sex offenders in Flagler County during the month of October for address verification checks and to ensure that all rules and restrictions are being followed.

There are 22 individuals living in Flagler County who have specific sanctions stating they cannot hand out candy, decorate for the holiday, or leave their porch light on during Halloween. These limitations are designed to protect children from potential threats from sexual offenders or predators, or those with conditions of their release that do not allow them to have contact with minors.

Detectives and probation officers will visit the homes of all 22 individuals with these sanctions on Oct. 31 to conduct a walkthrough of the residence and instruct them to not decorate their homes for Halloween, distribute candy, or otherwise participate in Halloween. These individuals must be in their homes by 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 and remain inside for the rest of the night, deputies said.

Of those being visited on Halloween, 21 are either predators or offenders. One is not an offender/predator but is on sex offender probation and has the same sanctions on Halloween night.

Below is a list of the 22 who will be visited on Halloween day. Included are their photographs, names and addresses. The Sheriff’s Office urges you to avoid visiting these addresses during Halloween.

Flagler County Halloween sex offenders flyer (Provided by Flagler County Sheriff’s Office)

“We always take safety very seriously, especially when it comes to children,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “We will do everything in our power to make sure these sex offenders and probationers are not able to prey on kids when they go trick-or-treating. If any of these people are not in compliance, they’ll be taken to the Green Roof Inn.”

The Green Roof Inn is Staly’s nickname for the Flagler County Jail.

The Sheriff reported Thursday that a sex offender deputies checked on last week had failed to register his new address and was arrested in St. Johns County.

“This is exactly why we conduct these compliance checks,” Staly said. “It is imperative that registered sex offenders keep their registered address up to date so that residents know who is living around them.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, there are 146 sex offenders and four predators living in Flagler County. That includes anyone with a Flagler County address who is incarcerated in the county. The Sex Offender Unit and Major Case Unit have been checking these addresses during the month of October to ensure the offenders and predators are in compliance.

Not all sex offenders are under restrictions for Halloween.

Staly urged parents to visit the FDLE database (see info above) to check for any sex offenders or predators that might live in their area or areas they plan to visit on Halloween.

The Sheriff’s Office is hosting a drive-through Trunk or Treat event from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Courthouse Parking Lot at 1769 E. Moody Blvd. in Bunnell.

If you plan to attend, remain inside your vehicle while following the candy station route in the parking lot. FCSO personnel will distribute the sweets and provide you with a candy bag with safety tips. Sheriff Woody and Jessie (A.K.A. Sheriff Staly and his wife, Debbie) plan to attend and greet you at the start.

“Our Trunk-or-Treat event is a fun and safe place for children and adults to join in on the Halloween fun,” Staly said. “FCSO’s Community Engagement team has worked hard to put this event together and we hope you join us for a ‘spooktacular’ evening!”

Everyone who attends is encouraged to wear a costume and even decorate their cars.

Flagler Trunk or Treat 2023 (Provided by Flagler County Sheriff’s Office)

Putnam County

According to spokesperson Allison Waters-Merritt, the Sheriff’s Office is working with parole and probation to make contact with sexual predators and sex offenders as Halloween gets closer to verify that those who have stipulations that they cannot participate in activities involving children are aware of the rules.

The Sheriff’s Office will then follow up with spot checks on Halloween with those offenders and predators who have those conditions as part of their monitoring process to make sure they are complying with state law.

Sex offenders and predators on probation are required to follow specific terms regarding holidays, which can vary by case. Those found to not be in compliance can be charged with violating their probation.

There are also two Halloween events in the county sponsored by law enforcement.

The Palatka Police Department hosts a trunk-or-treat event on Halloween at the Palatka Riverfront from 5-8 p.m.

And the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office hosts a trunk-or-treat on Halloween in Crescent City near its office on Prospect Street from 6-8 p.m.

Alachua County

Public Information Officer Art Forgey said Alachua County does not have any special restrictions or ordinances in place regulating sex offenders or predators.

They are subject to state laws concerning the holiday.

Those still on probation are under specific guidelines regarding interacting with children, which vary by case.

File photo

Baker County

Lt. David C. Mancini Jr., who oversees the Detective Division at the Baker County Sheriff’s Office, said sex offenders and/or predators living in Baker County are prohibited from distributing candy or ANY other items to children on Halloween, and their porch lights are to remain off throughout the night (unlike the photo below).

They are also not allowed to dress in any costume or outfit that could appeal to children, such as a clown costume.

The BCSO offender tracking unit and the Office of Probation & Parole are taking proactive steps by reminding all offenders & predators of these guidelines in advance, and both agencies will be out in the community on Halloween to ensure that these individuals are in absolute compliance with the law.

Springfield residents are getting festive for Halloween by decorating their porches for the occasion. (Photo via Jaimie Swann Lepp)

Bradford County

In Bradford County, no local ordinance prevents offenders from participating in Halloween, but those still on probation are under specific guidelines regarding interacting with children, including not taking part in Halloween activities.

Because of strict city ordinances regarding sex offenders living in Starke, most offenders in Bradford County live in the county’s rural areas, where trick-or-treating is less common.

But the Sex Offender Unit of the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office is doing more than focusing on trick-or-treating. They will be increasing compliance checks with sexual offenders and predators in the county during the month of October as part of “Operation: Shield.”

“With all the football games, fall festivities and trick or treating, our youth will be out and about everywhere,” the unit said in a release. “Our Sex Offender Unit takes their safety very seriously.”

The unit is partnering with the local Department of Corrections Probation Office to increase the number of visits to the homes of sex offenders/predators who are under supervision. They will also increase patrol and presence at fall festivals, church functions, the downtown Trunk or Treat event and throughout neighborhoods during scheduled trick or treat times.

The unit is also working with the School Resource Deputy Program to help during school events and football games.

“This initiative is to ensure parents in our community they can enjoy all the festivities and events, knowing Sheriff Gordon Smith has their back,” the release said.

The Great Pumpkin Escape is a free, family-friendly event with games, trick-or-treating and vendors at the Call Street Historic District in Starke. The event runs from 5-8 p.m. on Oct. 28. For more information, click here.

Columbia County

Sgt. Steven Khachigan said the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is active throughout the year in letting the public know where sexual predators live in their area. He said deputies make mandatory announcements on social media whenever a predator enters the county, and any childcare facility within a mile of where a predator lives is notified in person by a detective.

He said he encourages parents to check the FDLE website (see info above) to find any predators or offenders in their neighborhoods and to sign up for alerts that will tell them if any move into the area.

The Sheriff’s Office also sends out a Halloween safety bulletin, which includes advice to trick-or-treat only in neighborhoods where the family is familiar with who lives in the area.

Khachigan said that while Columbia County’s ordinance might not name Halloween specifically, predators do have to follow rules year-round about not enticing children to come to their homes.

The detective in charge of the county’s sexual predator tracking unit will also be coordinating some increased patrols.

File photo (WDIV)

Union County

Because of the county’s regulations, sexual predators cannot move into Union County, but sex offenders can, Capt. Lyn Williams explained.

He said sex offenders in the county are told to turn their lights off and not decorate their homes for Halloween.

He said the county’s offender unit will be out patrolling both before and during local trick-or-treating events to make sure offenders are in compliance and not enticing any children.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office also hands out thousands of light-up glow sticks throughout all Halloween events for the safety of the children.

A city/county-wide trick-or-treating event at the RMC Prison will be from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28. The Sheriff’s Office will have multiple units on foot patrol at the event at 7765 County Road 231 in Lake Butler, Williams said.

There’s also a city-wide door-to-door trick-or-treat event in Lake Butler from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Williams said multiple additional patrol units will be throughout the city that evening.

Williams said the Sheriff’s Office works closely with Probation and Parole Officers during these events to ensure that those supposed to be home, stay home.

Williams suggested parents check their neighborhoods on the FDLE sex offender search page (see instructions above) and sign up for alerts through the Florida Offender Alert System, which notifies users when offenders move into a particular area.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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