By Brad Bauer
The Marietta Times
In a growing number of states, sex offenders can face jail time for decorating, passing out candy or even leaving their porch lights on during trick-or-treating.
But that isn't the case in Ohio, which is a concern to some parents and law enforcement officials.
Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said there are no laws in Ohio that would prevent a sex offender from Halloween-related activities in the community, including passing out candy.
Sex offender sites:
-www.familywatchdog.us (includes maps and email alerts).
There are currently 130 registered sex offenders living in Washington County, with another nine who are attending school or working in the community and live elsewhere.
Waite noted that not all sex offenders committed a crime against a child.
"Still, they should have no interaction with kids," he said. "If you can prevent them from participating or keep them busy with meetings at that time when the kids are out moving around that's all the better."
Washington County sheriff's Major Jon Coppernoll said parents should venture out with their children for trick-or-treat and be aware if any sex offenders live in their neighborhoods by checking sex offender registries.
"I think the best policy is just for parents to be diligent and head out there with their kids," he said.
Natalie Lee, 24, of Marietta, who has a 4-year-old son and twin 2-year-old girls, said she plans to tag along with her children as they go door-to-door Saturday evening asking for candy in the Oak Grove area.
"It definitely bothers me that we might unknowingly knock on a sex offender's door," she said. "I think there should be laws that prevent them from being able to pass out candy."
In Missouri, sex offenders could face up to a year in jail if they are caught having "Halloween-related" contact with children, including simply turning on a porch light during trick-or-treat in the neighborhood.
In Russell County, Alabama, the sheriff is requiring about 35 sex offenders who are on probation or parole to come to the county courthouse for a mandatory meeting. If they fail to show up, they could be charged with a parole violation.
Similar crackdowns have been spreading across the country, said Sandi Hrozek of the Internet-based ReformSexOffenderLaws.org, which aims to protect children from abuse while balancing the rights of convicted sex offenders.
Hrozek did not return a message seeking comment Friday but recently told the Associated Press there have been studies conducted that show the incidence of sexual assault against children is no higher around Halloween than any other time.
"There is not a single reported case on record of a child being assaulted by a registered offender while trick-or-treating," she said. "It is what some have called a solution looking for a problem."
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said he was unaware of any pending legislation that could put more restrictions on sex offenders around Halloween. Currently, sex offenders are prohibited from living near schools and depending on their conviction, must check in with the local sheriff's office to verify their address and place of employment.
"On occasions like Halloween I could see that there is a greater chance of something unfortunate happening," he said. "Certainly, additional scrutiny could be examined."
The Associated Press contributed.