After threatening to arrest older kids for trick or treating and scaring the pants off of parents by once again claiming drugs disguised as treats are flooding the streets, local government officials were at it again on Halloween day, posting danger signs at the doors of registered sex offenders’ houses.
On a Facebook post, Butts County Sheriff Gary Long said that his office “placed signs in front of every registered sex offender’s house to notify the public that it’s a house to avoid.”
“Make sure to avoid houses which are marked with the attached posted signs in front of their residents,” the local Georgia official added.
But despite the decision to ensure residents knew where sex offenders lived during Halloween, a commonplace practice in Butts County, Long told reporters that children were not more likely to be attacked on that night.
“I’m not trying to humiliate ’em or anything like that. Let’s face reality: We have a greater chance of children getting run over by a car [on Halloween] than being a victim of sexual assault by a repeat offender,” he told reporters. “But at the end of the day if, in fact, we had a child that fell victim to a sexual assault, especially by a convicted sex offender, I don’t think I could sleep at night.”
But his tactics are not based on facts, as sex offenders have same-crime recidivism rates between 3 and 4 percent, much lower than other types of crime. In addition, there are countless cases of actual children placed on sex offender registries who were caught, for instance, pulling their pants down and sitting on the faces of their buddies as a joke.
Even the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says that the “single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14,” making us question just how effective and relevant the practice of registering so-called sex offenders is.
When asked how he felt about local sex offenders emailing him and saying they felt humiliated by the signs posted in front of their properties, Long told reporters he couldn’t care less.
“I don’t care if they do like it or if they don’t like it,” the official said. “My job is to ensure the safety of the children and the community and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Despite his holier-than-thou attitude, a Butts County woman whose husband is on the registry says she has been threatened. And that while she’s done nothing wrong, “that poster that is causing that hysteria is posted at my property.”
Sex Offender Registry: A Policy Based On Panic
When it comes to public policy, there’s nothing more harmful than passing a piece of legislation purely over panic.
A recent study looked into 67,000 cases of child molestation, learning there were no increases in sex-related crimes during Halloween. But despite this reality, the fear surrounding registered sex offenders remains a staple in many communities across the countries, as we see in Butts County.
I wonder what would it take for the unintended consequences of these policies to finally hit a nerve with the public, forcing them to pressure their elected officials to change the rules.