Officers need your help to protect your kids this Halloween

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October 31, 2006

Thousands of local youngsters are expected out on the streets and sidewalks tonight for Halloween.

Law enforcement officers say they will be keeping a close eye on registered sex offenders, but they need your help.

It is a family safety alert you probably know about, but don't think too much about: when your children trick or treat, they could be knocking on registered sex offenders' doors.

Officers are keeping a close eye on offenders, but it's up to parents to find out which neighborhoods to avoid.

The GBI's registry shows six offenders live on Hephzibah-McBean Road, where children will be trick or treating.

With possible danger nearby, mother Heather Guilfoyle isn't taking any risks.

"That's why we stay at home," she told News 12. "And she's scared too of all the masks and everything."

Heather's young daughter is afraid of the scary costumes, but Heather tells us she is afraid of the registered sex offenders she sometimes sees walking near her house. That's why probation officer Paul Dupass will be making Halloween house calls.

"We are serious about protecting the public," he said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections' probation office sent notices out to every offender in the area, advising them not to answer the door for trick or treaters and to avoid Halloween activities. And the officers are tracking everyone they think could be a threat to the public.

"We'd like to let the parents know we're out there monitoring these offenders, and also we need their help," DuPass said.

Parents need to check the registries and stay away from areas where offenders live.

Richmond County has about 4900 homes and 175 registered sex offenders. That means a registered sex offender could be on the other side of the door of every 4 out of 100 homes you go to.

That's why going door to door isn't an option for Heather's family this year.

"We just kind of keep her inside and let her be with friends and cousins and grandparents, and get all dressed up."

We talked off camera to registered sex offenders. They tell us they plan to stay in tonight and keep their porch lights off.

There is a penalty if they break the rules, and it's pretty simple according to officers: if they violate the terms of their probation, they're going back to jail.