Halloween 2011 in California was marked by an aggressive crackdown by state and local officials on sex offenders.
In started in the last few weeks, when Riverside County supervisors and several cities approved measures prohibiting all registered sex offenders from decorating their houses or distributing candy to trick-or-treaters.
The state, which has long required sex offender parolees to stay shuttered in their homes on Halloween night, added a provision for homeless sex offenders in most of the state: They were ordered to spend Halloween night at "transient sex offender round-up centers."
Sex offender parolees with homes are already subject to strict rules on Halloween night. From 5 p.m. Monday until to 5 a.m. Tuesday, they are required to remain indoors with no exterior lights on. They are forbidden from putting jack o' lanterns or other seasonal decorations outside their homes and banned from opening the door to anyone but law enforcement personnel.
But about 2,000 of the state's nearly 9,000 sex offender parolees are homeless, partly because of restrictions that prohibit them from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools.
So this year, as part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's annual Operation Boo crackdown on sex offenders, homeless sex offender parolees in three of the four state parole regions were ordered to report to designated centers to remain there under supervision from 5 to 10 p.m. Halloween night.
Luis Patino, a spokesman with the corrections department, said that homeless sex offender parolees were notified of the requirement in their mandatory weekly meetings with parole officers, and that agents were able to track down those who didn't comply through the GPS devices on their ankle bracelets.
He said that the restrictions are intended to protect children and families on the holiday and that it's more efficient and cost-effective to have transient sex offenders report to centers than to track them individually.
"If you bring them all together for a few hours, it frees up some of our agents to do other things, like compliance checks," he said.
Some groups cried foul, calling the Halloween sex offender restrictions a costly waste of time that violate the civil rights of people who, in many cases, have not committed a crime against children.
"As far as we can tell, no trick-or-treater has ever been sexually assaulted on Halloween," said Janice Bellucci, state organizer for California Reform Sex Offender Laws. She called the curfew center plan reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
Patino said that there had been no reported sexual assaults on trick-or-treaters during the 18 years of Operation Boo, calling that a sign of the operation's success.
The rules passed by Riverside County as well as several cities are more restrictive than the state's crackdown, because they cover all registered sex offenders, not just those on parole.
Under Riverside County's rules, registered sex offenders are banned from answering the door to trick-or-treaters or putting Halloween decorations on their homes between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. Monday.
They are also prohibited from leaving on any external lights between 5 and 11:59 p.m. on Halloween night.
The city of Perris voted down a similar proposal after concerns about possible civil rights violations were raised.