California laws rule out sex offenders decorating for Halloween

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – A lawsuit in California aims to allow registered sex offenders to decorate their homes for Halloween.

Several communities in that state have banned sex offenders from putting out pumpkins or other decorations outdoors, but do the same rules apply in Arkansas?

According to the Lawrence County sheriff, the answer is no.

Sheriff Jody Dotson says "unfortunately," there are no state laws preventing local sex offenders from passing out candy or putting out decorations, but his deputies do keep a close watch on their homes during the holiday.

Dotson says he would support an effort to keep sex offenders from setting out decorations during Halloween.

"If their porch light's on, there's no decoration, then typically you don't go to those houses," he said. "If they weren't allowed to, then that would stop most of the kids from going even to knock on the door."

With no such restriction in place, the sheriff says his office uses other safeguards to keep kids safe when they trick-or-treat.

"We always encourage the families to get online and go to our Web site and even on our Facebook page, we have links to the sex offender registry," Dotson said, "so they can become familiar with whose in your neighborhood."

The sheriff's office also brings in all its deputies and as many reserve officers as it can get to beef up patrols, mostly concentrating on neighborhoods near more violent offenders.

Dotson says these preventative measures have worked in the past.

"So far, knock on wood, we've never had any problems."

Deputies regularly monitor where sex offenders live throughout the year. Level one and level two offenders have to update their information every six months, while level three and level four offenders do the same every three months.

Level three and level four offenders are also prohibited to live within 2,000 feet of a school, playground or any places visited frequently by kids.

Sheriff Dotson encourages parents to check out the sex offender registry before heading out on Halloween, but some say they only go to homes they know.

"We start with family and then we go to friends," said Lillie Hughes, a mother of a three year old, "then if we [don't get] too much candy then we go to the other houses."

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