When trick-or-treaters hit the streets Thursday night, so did Rock Island County Sheriff’s deputies. News 8 rode with area law enforcement as they checked to make sure registered sex offenders were following Illinois law.
“Sex offenders could prey on kids, and [on Halloween] they have the ability to do it from the comfort of their home. So, we’re checking to make sure that the kids are still safely able to go out and trick-or-treat,” said Steve Rusk, a deputy with the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department ACE unit.
Illinois law bans sex offenders from participating in holiday celebrations where children are present. This includes activities like handing out candy on Halloween, or dressing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
At the first house officers checked Thursday night, the porch light was on. Kids trick-or-treating also told a deputy that a man in a witch costume had answered the door.
“The guy was not the offender, so the offender was not in costume. He was in a separate room even, so he’s still being compliant by being in the house,” said Deputy Jesse Doty.
State law does not prohibit other family members from passing out candy from the residence, as long as the offender is not involved. At a second stop, the light was also on, but a brother answered the door.
“I think it’s scary enough that so far, we’ve checked two sex offenders’ addresses, and both sex offenders’ addresses are still handing out candy. Now, it’s not against the law, but I’d rather my kids didn’t trick-or-treat somewhere where an offender resides,” said Rusk.
Deputies drove past some houses Thursday night where the outside lights were off, requiring no knock on the door.
At a final stop, though, the sex offender was nowhere to be found.
“He wasn’t home. We spoke to his grandmother, and the grandmother said he hasn’t lived there for a month. He’s required to register at his home address, so he’s in violation,” said Doty.
Deputies will now send a report to the State’s Attorney’s office, which can decide whether or not to issue an arrest warrant.
Unlike Illinois, Iowa has no state law restricting a sex offender’s actions on Halloween.