Sheriff's Office: Sex predators pose Halloween danger

A detective urges parents to be aware of which houses offenders live in before the kids head out.

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WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office is encouraging parents to be aware of the dangers posed by sexual predators on Halloween.

"It is the goal of our office to provide accurate information to the public regarding the dangers of sexual predators, and to further build community awareness," Detective Cristal Harris said in a news release.

According to Harris, some sex offenders in Walla Walla County will be required to display "Stop, No Candy at this Residence," signs in their windows, and also leave their lights off during Halloween.

It is important for students and parents to be informed, according to Harris, especially as students participate in door-to-door fundraising activities.

"It's not like all sex offenders will have that in their windows," Harris said. "It is crucial that you know which houses your children should avoid when trick-or-treating or selling door-to-door. Citizens like to think that every home is like their own; unfortunately that is not reality."

According to Harris, since 2008 only 452 people in Walla Walla County have signed up for the free email service, but 4,319 notifications have been sent.

"We have offenders move quite a bit," Harris said, adding that 130 sex offenders live in the county.

Harris also said it is important for parents to instill basic safety training in their children, because even the notification system doesn't list all offenders.

According to Harris, only Level 2 and 3 sex offenders are tracked by OffenderWatch, a sex offender "management" system employed by some states.

"Community notification has everything to do with risk (of reoffending,)" Harris said.

Through OffenderWatch, the Sheriff's Office provides an email service that will notify parents whether registered sex offenders live within two miles of their home address. Parents can include other locations where their children spend a lot of time, including the homes of family, friends or babysitters and childcare services.

The confidential service also provides safety tips and automatic updates, so parents don't have to constantly check for updates. For more information, go to ubne.ws/sKGniX.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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