Halloween: Holiday for Fear of Sex Offenders

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As I write this, the sun has just set and young kids have started cruising up and down my street. Costumed, faces painted, they have one thing on their minds—sugar.

Whether patient or impatient, their parents have varied thoughts—dealing with the sugar highs they’ll encounter at tonight’s bedtime; gratitude for another mild California evening; the pleasure of watching their kids have fun; the self-criticism when they compare their own neglected front yard to their neighbor’s new landscaping.

According to the media, politicians, law enforcement, and anti-sex activists, however, what parents are supposed to be thinking about is predators. Scarier than vampires, more determined than zombies, more destructive than Godzilla, Halloween is supposedly predators’ night to manipulate, seduce, capture, and poison our innocent darlings.

And so vigilante—sorry, neighborhood safety—groups are publishing the addresses of local registered sex offenders. They’re demanding these offenders put “no candy” signs on their doors. They want clown costumes taken off store shelves (in Florida police are urging people not to wear clown costumes and invite trouble). In some communities, offenders are being “invited” to mandatory meetings at community shelters for the evening. And anti-molesting groups (often using federal CDC propaganda), are warning American parents that on Halloween:

* Know where your local registered sex offenders live;
* Don’t let your kid go to any house alone;
* Don’t let your kid eat any candy not in its original wrapper;
* Don’t let your kid eat fruit or homemade cookies from a stranger;
* Don’t let your kid drink anything offered by a stranger.

Forget skeletons, gremlins, and Frankenstein—the scariest thing about Halloween is the fear-mongering designed to persuade parents that their kids live in a neighborhood full of dangerous predators. And yet, the facts say otherwise:

* Over 90% of sex offenses are committed by a child’s relatives or acquaintances, not strangers.
* Registered sex offenders are less likely to re-offend sexually than murderers, drunk drivers, arsonists, or violent burglars are to re-commit their crimes.
* There is no data showing that more sexual offenses are committed on Halloween than on any other autumn evening.
* There are virtually zero instances of adults poisoning or harming kids via trick or treat goodies.

So wherefore the fear, the anger, the defensiveness, the demand for increased protection from a danger that doesn’t exist?

The Registered Sex Offender (RSO) industry is worth billions of dollars. It depends on manipulating the public into thinking there are more dangerous people than there are; that they are all highly prone to reoffend; and that keeping track of them via a registry and restricted movements keeps us all safer.

But the data from across the country is clear: sex offender registries do not make us safer. They just burn up a lot of money that could be used to treat offenders and identify the untreatable ones. They do, of course, make the general population more fearful. If you’re part of the RSO industry, that fear is a good thing.

So what’s actually the most dangerous part of trick-or-treating? Cars. Pedestrians under 15 are way more likely to get struck and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year, according to federal statistics. Of course, we can’t eliminate cars; it’s much easier to target a group of people with no rights and no support, and project our anxiety onto them.

If only protecting our kids were that easy.

And still, the most dangerous thing in the average kid’s life is not being molested—it’s texting while riding a bike.

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