SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Halloween is getting closer and many parents may be thinking about where to take their kids to trick-or-treat. Local law enforcement agencies recommend you check the state's sex offender registry before you go into a neighborhood you're not familiar with.
Halloween is a time where kids dress up as their favorite character, fill the streets, and go house-to-house to get candy. Janet Burgess, who is a Sullivan County Probation and Patrol Officer, says parents need to be careful. "You don't know who lives next door to you, across the street, or four houses down, so it's nice to look every once in a while just to see what's in our surroundings," says Burgess.
Leslie Earhart with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office tells us one thing many people are unaware of are registered sex offenders in their neighborhood. "It's not a bad idea to go on the website to check out the neighborhood where you plan to take your child and see if there are any registered sex offenders," adds Earhart.
Virginia and Tennessee have a website where parents can look up registered sex offenders.
The website works like this -- you type in the address where you plan to trick-or-treat, and a list of registered sex offenders will pop up by dots on your screen. Then you can click on one of those dots to see if they are still on probation or not. "If a sex offender reports to the board of probation or parole, that means they're still on probation or parole. It also means that they are not even allowed to decorate their home for Halloween. They have to turn their porch light off, and cannot be visible to those trick-or-treating," says Earhart.
We learned anyone who lives with a sex offender still on parole isn't allowed to pass out candy either.
Parole officers like Burgess will be out with various law enforcement agencies in the area checking on sex offenders still on probation to make sure they are following the rules Halloween night. "We are all teamed up with various law enforcement agencies and we are actually going out to all of our offenders' houses starting at roughly 5:30 and working until 11:00 p.m.," says Burgess.
Officers also encourage parents to take their kids to trick-or-treat in neighborhoods they are familiar with, places a lot of kids trick-or-treat, and places that are well-lit.
For a link to the Tennessee sex offender registry click here.
For a link to the Virginia sex offender registry click here.