Operation Boo Aims to Protect Children on Halloween

For years, registered sex offenders in California have been forced to place signs on their doors that notify trick-or-treaters that they cannot participate in the holiday. The Halloween rule has been in place since 1994, and was implemented by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The requirement falls under the scope of “Operation Boo,” a state-wide sexual abuse program that is centered on one specific date: October 31.

The entire operation is under scrutiny by California Reform Sex Offender laws, a group determined to make restrictions against convicted sex offenders fairer. The group considers the requirement to hang such sings on a person’s door as unconstitutional. They also claim that the signs could put paroled sex offenders in danger.

Even though registered sex offenders were not required to hang signs on their doors this year, they did have to follow other guidelines set forth by Operation Boo. That included the prohibition from turning on exterior house lights, opening their doors for anyone outside of law enforcement, adding Halloween decorations to their homes or yards, and handing out candy. There was also a curfew in place for registered sex offenders that ran from 5 p.m. through 5 a.m.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are about 800,000 registered sex offenders throughout the nation. Because so many sex offenses go unreported, it is difficult to accurately report the amount of recidivism. It is also difficult to determine if programs like Operation Boo are as effective as they are thought to be.

While registries are designed to provide the community with a sense of security, they may do nothing more. A 2014 report detailing the management of sex offenders found that these registries often have mixed results, and residency restrictions may be counter-productive.

Whether California will revamp Operation Boo in its entirety remains to be seen. More research is needed into the ability to protect the Constitutional rights of paroled offenders while protecting the rights of the public. Stringent restrictions placed upon any paroled offender may prohibit them from obtaining employment or gainful housing, and moving forward with their lives. Not restricting paroled offenders may put the public in danger. There is a delicate balance to be struck.

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