Entries in Sex Offenders (4)


California Sex Offenders Fighting Halloween Ban

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- Five California sex offenders and their families are suing the city of Simi Valley, Calif., claiming that Halloween restrictions placed on them through a new law violate their right to free speech.

The group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Friday against Simi Valley, a city 37 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Under the ordinance, Simi Valley's 119 registered sex offenders are banned from displaying Halloween decorations at their homes.  They are required on Oct. 31 to turn off all exterior lighting and post a sign on their doors that reads in at least one-inch-tall letters: "No candy or treats at this residence."

"People are thinking this is because registrants want to pass out candy to children.  That is not the case for me," a 46-year-old registered sex offender and father of two told ABC News.

He is one of the anonymous plaintiffs suing the city to have the law struck down, and asked that his name not be used.

"This ordinance affects the residents," he said.  "It is being enforced on my wife and my children.  My kids can not even carve a pumpkin and put it on the front porch."

Janice Bellucci, an attorney representing the plaintiffs and head of California Reform Our Sex Offender Laws, an advocacy group that fights for the civil rights of registered sex offenders, said the sign requirement was particularly troubling.

"I'm concerned someone may try to harm them or their family members or their home," she said.  "The advice I've given them is to go somewhere else on Halloween night."

David Caceras, assistant Simi Valley city attorney, said his office had not yet been served with the lawsuit and would be unable to comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Online Gaming Networks Pull Plug on Thousands of Sex Offenders

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 12-year-old was like any boy his age, playing video games on Xbox LIVE, when prosecutors say he met a predator, Richard Kretovic of Greece, N.Y.  The two chatted using their gaming consoles for three months when Kretovic persuaded the boy to come to his house, where court records say he was subjected to repeated sexual abuse.

"We have seen dangerous people use gaming platforms to lure unsuspecting children," said District Attorney Sandra Doorley in Monroe County, N.Y., whose office prosecuted Kretovic.  He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said it's too easy for sexual predators to use voice and text chat functions in online gaming services to lure underage victims.

"The level of interaction among the players is just astonishing," Schneiderman said. "It is a really dangerous vehicle for people who would abuse this process."

In what Schneiderman's office called "Operation Game Over" Microsoft, Sony, Disney Interactive Media Group, Electronic Arts and other gaming companies agreed to shut down the accounts of more than 3,500 registered sex offenders in New York.

"By leveraging the online identity information all registered sex offenders are required to provide we are able to help reduce potentially harmful situations," said Microsoft vice president Rich Wallis.

This is the first such purge in the country and Schneiderman hopes other states follow suit.

"We have to be vigilant in this area because online gaming is not just a digital playground.  It has the potential to be a 21st century crime scene," he said.

The Pew Research Center has found 97 percent of young people ages 12-17 play some form of video games. More than a quarter of them play online with people they don't know.

"What better place could there be to find unsuspecting children and teens at their most vulnerable than when they're playing games in their own homes," said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law.  "Even the most vigilant parent may never know their child could be gaming and chatting with a registered sex offender."

The attorney general advises parents to choose games that are age-appropriate; use a game console's parental controls, keep the console in a public area of the home and talk to kids about protecting identifying information.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Church Offers Adults-Only Services for Sex Offenders

Comstock/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- A Wisconsin church is reaching out to sex offenders by providing services that are for adults only.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison started offering the services in late February after a parole officer contacted the Rev. Jerry Hancock about offenders wanting a place to worship that would not violate their parole.

The senior minister at the church, Curt Anderson, said the program was a natural progression for the church, which also has a prison ministry.

“This congregation has a history to reaching out to all people,” Anderson said. “Folks who are in prison are people too.”

The bi-weekly meetings have attracted approximately 10-12 participants for each service, he said.

Experts in rehabilitation say faith-based groups can provide an important support system for offenders.

“Churches often have a capacity to help reintegrate offenders into the community because of wide network and an interest in helping people,” said Maia Christopher, the executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Christopher said that in addition to adults-only services, churches occasionally offer specialized services or counseling so that sex offenders or other violators can participate.

“Creating spaces that are safe for people to worship [can] be very helpful towards leading to the prevention of sexual abuse [by] providing community support,” said Christopher, adding that by offering services and counseling specifically for offenders, the church leaders and members become invested in their rehabilitation.

At the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Anderson said the membership of 500 had been mostly supportive of the program.

The church’s website features photographs of members holding signs that read, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” It’s a statement that both the church leadership and parishioners say they’re committed to.

“I wasn’t exactly surprised, but I was once again reaffirmed and heartened by the church’s response to the idea,” Anderson said.

While some members were concerned about safety, Anderson said they were appeased after the church explained that they would ensure no children would be on the premises during the meetings.

“We truly want to be a church where everyone is welcome,” Susan Heneman, a parishioner, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “We have to live this out, not just say it on paper.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Law Prohibits Sex Offenders From Answering Door on Halloween

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- With children getting ready to go door to door trick-or-treating Monday for Halloween, communities near Los Angeles are taking action to protect their children from sex offenders and other criminals.

Riverside County passed an ordinance Oct. 16 prohibiting sex offenders from opening the door to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, turning their exterior lights on after dark and putting up Halloween decorations on Oct. 31.

Orange and San Jacinto cities have similar rules.

The ordinance states that “the events of Halloween could put children unknowingly in close proximity to sexual offenders who have committed violations against children.”

“Usually we have the predator going after the prey, but Halloween causes incidental contact between the prey coming to the predator, and so I want to minimize that contact,” Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

“These ordinances have been on the books in the cities of Orange and San Jacinto, and to my knowledge there have been no challenges, but we’re always up for the challenge if somebody wants to challenge it, I’ll always err on the side of children’s safety,” Stone said.

If sex offenders are caught in violation of the new ordinance, it will be considered a misdemeanor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio