Lights out: Sex offenders cannot hand out candy on Halloween

News-DemocratOctober 29, 2013 

Parents, be sure to remind your trick-or-treaters not to ring the doorbells of homes where outside lights are dark.

A new Illinois law this year prevents sex offenders from handing out Halloween candy.

"If the lights aren't on at the residence, don't go up to the door," explained O'Fallon Police Lt. Jim Cavins. "What sex offenders must do ... similar to somebody who doesn't want to deal with trick-or-treaters ... they have to turn out their outside lights."

The Child Sex Offender Holiday Costume Prohibition law prohibits convicted sex offenders from participating in a holiday event with children under 18. So convicted offenders cannot dole out Halloween treats. In addition, sex offenders are not allowed to dress up as Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. Offenders who violate the law face fines, revocation of their parole or probation and additional jail time. The law took effect Jan. 1.

To enforce the rule in O'Fallon, police plan to do a compliance check Thursday at the homes of registered sex offenders within their city limits. "We'll show them the letter they received from their probation officer that they are not to hand out candy," Cavins explained. "We'll go prior to the evening beginning reminding them."

Police also plan to drive by those homes during the 6 to 9 p.m. trick-or-treating hours to make sure the offenders are following the rule, Cavins said.

Edwardsville Police Jay Keeven said police conduct regular compliance checks at the homes of registered sex offenders in Edwardsville.

"We do take it seriously," Keeven said. "We are a family-friendly city and we want to maintain that quality of life... Halloween is a big deal in our city."

Belleville was ahead of the state legislation.

For several years, Belleville's Halloween ordinance has restricted convicted child sex offenders from participating in any Halloween events involving a person younger than 17, such as distributing candy. No candy or treats can be distributed from the sex offender's place of residence, and all outside residential lighting must be turned off from 4 to 11 p.m.

Also in Belleville, a city ordinance limits trick-or-treating to those age 12 and younger. No person older than 12 may appear in any public place in the city in a mask or disguise where the identity of the person is concealed.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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