Sex Offender Laws Lax on Halloween

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It's the spookiest day of the year, the day kids go from house to house and neighbors open their doors, offering your children sweets and scares. But how well do you know those neighbors your kids may meet tonight?

"If a sex offender moves to Michigan from another state, they could be living next to you the whole time and you don't even know it," says Det. Sgt. Kyle McPhee of the Michigan State Police.

And McPhee says there's little the police can legally do to protect trick-or-treaters from sex offenders.

"There's nothing in the Michigan sex offender registry laws that prohibit a sex offender from handing out candy on Halloween at their residence."

That's right-- sex offenders who have done their time have the same rights as the average citizen. And Lt. Bruce Ferguson of the Lansing Police says an exhaustive sex offender watch is unrealistic regardless.

"We can't have an officer assigned to every sex offender in the city," Ferguson says.

McPhee says there are more than 40,000 registered sex offenders in Michigan, with 1,180 of them in the tri-county (Ingham, Clinton and Eaton) area; the majority, he says, dispersed in Ingham.

What McPhee does recommend is checking out the Michigan sex offender registry before taking kids out to trick-or-treat. On the Web site, you can type in your zip code and locate sex offenders in your neighborhood. And if your children are young, never send them out alone. Have an adult guardian with them while they troll for treats.

"Not just on trick-or-treating," says Ferguson, "but every day. Keep an eye on your kids. Know where they're going."

That way, there will be no tricks-- just treats-- throughout the year.