Staying safe this Halloween from sexual offenders

Posted at 11:44 AM, Oct 25, 2016

Halloween is just around the corner. Kids knocking on doors, asking for candy. But what if there's a sex offender behind that door? An iPhone app that locates all sexual offenders around the area will be useful when going trick-or-treating, according to our legal analyst, Florina Altshiler.

"From prosecuting sex crimes previously, sometimes sex offenders tend to look for vulnerable victims," said Altshiler. "And if a young child is out by themselves and if they could lure that child in, or if they could take that child out of their position of safety, that's a crime of opportunity. That's certainly something that you want to be mindful of and you want to protect your children against."

According to the New York State sex offender registry, there are more than 1,300 sex offenders in Erie County and more than 500 in Niagara County. Experts say a lot of those offenders are at high risk of repeating their crime.

"Recidivism rate for sex offenders is something that's certainly concerning," said Altshiler. "Sometimes the rates are particularly low as low as 4% but sometimes the rates are high, as high as 41-42%. That's something that families should be concerned about."

That's why the app, Offender Locator, may be useful while searching for candy with your kids. The app shows you exactly where registered sex offenders live, to help you stay away from those homes on Halloween.

You can search your address to see how many sexual offenders live near you. Some may be closer than you think - at least that's what some parents and grandparents that 7 Eyewitness News spoke to thought.

"I'm floored that there are that many people walking around," said David Galvin, who will be trick-or-treating with his granddaughter. "You have to be very vigilant and careful because in a snap of a finger, you could disappear."

Police also recommend carrying a flashlight, and trick-or-treating in groups.

Sheriff Thomas Dougherty from the Livingston County Sheriff's Office advise parents:

  • Map your route and check it against the New York State Sex Offender Registry at www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/nsor
  • Accompany your young children and plan to go when it's light out
  • Feed your children a meal or substantial snack before trick or treating
  • Have children save all candy until they get home
  • Inspect all treats; throw away unwrapped, open, or suspicious looking goodies