By Lenore Skenazy . . . Every year around Halloween time, Patch, the news website specializing in local coverage around the country, publishes maps that show where sex offenders live. Patch claims this is some kind of public service, even though a thorough study of 67,000 cases of child molestation found zero increase in sex crimes against children on Halloween.
The vast majority of crimes against children are not committed by strangers, but by people close to the kids. Stranger danger is actually pointing worried parents in the wrong direction.
What’s more, sex offenders are not especially likely to go after kids on Halloween. Contrary to popular belief, “across the board the majority of sexual offenders do not go on to reoffend,” says Jill Levenson, a professor of social work who has studied Halloween crimes.
In other words, Patch publishes a list of people who have served their time and are extremely unlikely to offend again, in order to make parents terrified that the people at those addresses are out to hurt their kids.
This year is no exception. Here’s a typical Patch piece, headlined: “Fairfield 2018 Sex Offender Addresses To Be Aware Of On Halloween.” The article continues: “Find out where the registered sex offenders are living in Fairfield before the kids go out trick-or-treating. … You may want to avoid trick-or-treating at these houses and apartments on Halloween, or merely be aware of who’s living in your neighborhood during the rest of the year.”
Why? Why find this out, considering the facts above?
Last year, the National Association for Rational Sex Offense Laws had had enough with this approach and wrote a letter to Patch imploring the company to stop publicizing sex offenders’ addresses. The letter, which Patch ran, suggested printing a map of all the places children have been harmed or abducted on Halloween by someone on the registry over the past 20 years. “Such a map would display no dots because exhaustive research has turned up not so much as a single case,” wrote NARSOL’s board.