Sex offender compliance checks done ahead of Halloween
By ZACHARY FITZGERALD
The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office is finishing compliance checks of registered sex offenders in the parish prior to Halloween and will increase patrols on Halloween night and during trick-or-treating hours, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Traci Landry said.
Though sex offender compliance checks are done year round, there are additional requirements sex offenders have to meet for Halloween, Landry said. The sheriff’s office checks all Tier II and III sex offenders before Halloween. A list of Tier II and III offenses can be found online at www.lsp.org/socpr/offenses.html.
“Our detectives make every effort to make sure sex offenders live where they tell us,” St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert said in a news release. “It is crucial that our citizens visit our website, http;//www.sheriffalerts.com/la.stmary, to see who the registered sex offenders are and where they are living.”
Sex offenders are banned from wearing hoods, masks or disguises on Halloween, Mardi Gras, Easter, Christmas, or any other recognized holiday for which hoods, masks, or disguises are generally used.
Another state law says, “It shall be unlawful for any person convicted of or who pleads guilty to a sex offense specified in R.S. 24:932 to distribute candy or other gifts to persons under 18 years of age on or concerning Halloween, Mardi Gras, Easter, Christmas, or any other recognized holiday for which generally candy is distributed or other gifts given to persons under 18 years of age. Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than six months and no more than three years.”
There are about 170 registered sex offenders in St. Mary Parish. Sheriff’s detectives and deputies go to the residences of each offender to ensure they meet the state requirements, Landry said.
Since January, the sheriff’s office has arrested 16 sex offenders for failing to meet those state requirements.
The sheriff wants people to know where sex offenders live so community members can avoid those houses when trick-or-treating, she said.
“If you aren’t planning on trick-or-treating in your neighborhood, but will be in a family or friend’s neighborhood, check their address beforehand so you know which houses to avoid,” Hebert said in the news release.
People can find out where sex offenders live by using the mapping and address features on the Offender Watch website at www.sheriffalerts.com/la/stmary. Click on the link “locate registered sex offenders” and sign up to receive email alerts as soon as new offenders register with the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office coordinates with other police departments in the parish to conduct sex offender compliance checks, and helps train officers to perform the checks, Landry said.
Sex offenders must register with the jurisdiction where they live in addition to registering with the sheriff, Landry said.
Officers within the parish’s police departments volunteer to be trained for the sex offender compliance checks, she said. Sex offenders must notify the sheriff if they live or work in the parish. If a sex offender lives in the parish, he or she must also let the sheriff’s office know if the offender works outside the parish, Landry said.
Part of the check is to make sure the offender is still living at the listed address because sex offenders are required to notify law enforcement of address changes.
Law enforcement officers also keep track of what vehicles offenders drive, Landry said.
The sheriff’s office tries to do the checks when the sex offender is likely to be home based on their work schedules, she said.
Trick-or-treating hours for Berwick, Morgan City, Patterson, and unincorporated areas of the parish will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.