Taking children out for some Halloween fun is meant to be a joyful activity, yet the dangers of the world can often lead to added stress for parents.
But the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office takes several precautions and strictly enforces laws that create a safer environment for trick or treaters, allowing their parents to rest just a little bit easier.
Every Halloween night, the Sheriff’s Office puts increased emphasis on its vigilance of the 72 registered sex offenders living in the parish in order to keep children safe.
Distributing candy or gifts on Halloween to anyone age 18 or under is prohibited for sex offenders, a law that also stands on Mardi Gras, Easter or any other holiday where that is tradition, according to St. Charles Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Pat Yoes. The penalty is a minimum of six months and up to three years in prison.
The St. Charles Parish website’s sex offender’s registry has a breakdown of how many registered offenders live in each of the parish’s communities, including those in Boutte (10), Destrehan (10), Luling (12), Ama (1), Des Allemands (15), Killona (4), Montz (3), New Sarpy (1), Norco (2), Paradis (5), St. Rose (9) and Taft (0).
Every year on Halloween night the Sheriff’s Office assembles two teams of deputies to make sure sex offenders are in compliance. Tier three offenders, or those lifetime registered, and offenders on probation or parole will be contacted face to face by a deputy to make sure they are in compliance. Every residence in which a sex offender resides is checked by a deputy.
Yoes believes these actions have gone a long way toward keeping St. Charles Parish free of incidents on Halloween for more than a decade.
“We haven’t had any issues in the past 15 years,” Yoes said. “I think it’s probably due to the fact that we explain to the offenders ahead of time what we expect from them.”Sex offenders are encouraged to stay inside their residence during the peak hours of Halloween night from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. and to keep their porch lights off at their residences.
“Those aren’t requirements, just suggestions,” Yoes said. “While they are not required to stay home, they are advised not to participate in the festivities.”
While offenders aren’t required to stay at or inside their residence, if they are caught participating by giving out candy or gifts they are subject to immediate arrest.
“It’s zero tolerance,” Yoes said.
Though police take these measures, Yoes also offered advice for parents who can do their part to secure a safe and sound Halloween experience for their families.
“Parents should stay with their children,” Yoes said. “My suggestion would be for parents to go to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office website and look up the sex offenders in the neighborhood that you will be trick or treating in. Flag and write those residences down and do not go to those houses. If you see someone giving out candy at those residences, call the Sheriff’s Office and we will have a deputy go to that residence.”