A Georgia sheriff took a very important step to keep children in his jurisdiction safe on Halloween.
Butts County Sheriff Gary Long had the idea of putting lawn signs on the properties of registered sex offenders so that children would know not to approach these homes during their Halloween trick-or-treating.
There was an increased concern for children’s safety while trick-or-treating this year because the usual Butts County Halloween on the Square event was not taking place. The event previously allowed for children to trick-or-treat in a safe, controlled environment with local merchants distributing candy.
The increased foot traffic around the area, coupled with the number of sex offenders registered in the county, was enough to convince Sheriff Long to do something to keep the community safe. He dispatched members of his office to put up “no trick-or-treat” signs at the homes of sex offenders, who by Georgia law are not allowed to participate in the holiday.
Sheriff Gary Long announced in a Facebook post that his office was outfitting the homes of area sex offenders with lawn signs warning children not to trick-or-treat at these homes.
While the signs themselves do not blatantly state that an inhabitant of that home is a sex offender, they do mention that it’s a community safety message from the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Gary Long felt the signs were necessary because there would be increased trick-or-treating activity in the community.
In previous years, the community hosted a Halloween on the Square event where children could trick-or-treat safely, with businesses in the community providing candy. The heightened concern this year comes with the absence of this event.
When the sheriff’s office announced the signs, there were mixed reactions from those in the community.
Many people thought that since the information is readily available to residents in a number of other ways, the signs were unnecessary.
And some people believed the signs were a violation of civil rights — they worried that this would open these people to scrutiny far beyond Halloween.
Many also pointed out that while putting children’s safety first is always a good policy, statistically, abusers are people already involved in a child’s life.
Finally, some people saw the potential for mischief. The signs are easily movable and could be misused by someone looking to meddle in others’ lives.
One citizen thought that the signs were a bit over the top until he spotted one close to his home. He then became appreciative of the sheriff’s efforts.
Although many people didn’t like the signs, plenty of others were satisfied to see the signs and supportive of them.
Supporters of the signs argued that it’s not entirely possible to know if people have changed, and it’s better to just avoid the risks whenever possible — especially if children are involved.
When Sheriff Long spoke with CBS News about the signs, he pointed a few things out: “I’m not trying to humiliate ’em or anything like that. Let’s face reality: We have a greater chance of children getting run over by a car [on Halloween] than being a victim of sexual assault by a repeat offender. But at the end of the day if, in fact, we had a child that fell victim to a sexual assault, especially by a convicted sex offender, I don’t think I could sleep at night.”
Hopefully everyone in the community stayed safe this Halloween!