Program protects children from sex offenders on Halloween

DOC sets rules sex offenders must follow during trick-or-treating
Program protects children from sex offenders on Halloween

The approximately 300 sex offenders under active supervision are monitored throughout the year, but on one day, Halloween, they are watched particularly closely. On that day the offenders must comply with restrictions placed upon them and they are visited by agents with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

“These are unannounced visits. They only know that we are going to be out on Halloween and they don’t know when we are arriving or how many times we’re going to come by,” said Tina Gensler, a corrections field supervisor with the Department of Corrections.

The Knock and Talk program started eight years ago as a way of monitoring sex offenders under active supervision on a night when children are out trick-or-treating.

In addition to the random visits by correction agents the offenders must agree to be in their homes at least one hour before trick-or-treating starts, and they must remain there until at least one hour after it ends. The offenders must also agree to not place Halloween decorations outside their home and keep porch lights off during trick-or-treating times.

“They have a set of rules that they have to follow, so our agents are working with them on their rules,” Gensler said.

While agents work to monitor sex offenders on Halloween, a state website allows parents to identify locations where sex offenders live. The website lets users search registered sex offenders by name or location. The location search lets residents determine if a registered sex offender is living within a three-mile radius of an address.

Statewide there are approximately 23,000 registered sex offenders.

Even with the information available through the registered sex offender website officials recommend parents exercise caution with their children.

“I don’t want the public to think that these are the only sex offenders out there because these are the sex offenders that are here because they qualify for the criteria of registration,” Gensler said. “I encourage them to use this as a snapshot of who they are but also make sure they are aware of their surroundings.”

Gensler said it is important for parents to talk to their children and develop a plan that will enhance their safety on Halloween.

“Halloween is meant to be fun and the kids are supposed to enjoy it. So we encourage the parents to stay with their kids. Make sure that their children have either an adult that they trust or a parent with them. Don’t let them go into the house without the parent’s permission,” Gensler said.