I-Team Investigates: Sex offenders passing out candy on Halloween
STATEWIDE (WGME) -- Kids across Maine are getting ready to trick or treat and the CBS 13 I-Team discovers they could be getting candy from registered sex offenders.
The costumes are already picked out as kids anxiously await Halloween night with one goal in mind: candy.
But there's a scary side to trick or treating that has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins.
"Parents don't realize that the person handing out candy could be a predator," said Mike O'Neal, CEO and founder of the non-profit, Keeping Kids Safe.
The CBS 13 I-Team discovered there's no Maine law that says registered sex offenders can't pass out candy just like the rest of their neighbors.
"It's a pedophile, it's a kid," said Tia Swain, a parent from Buxton. "No. No. Not a good idea."
Marilyn Drew, a grandmother from Bridgton, agreed, "It's pretty scary to think your little ones are out there trying to have a good time and there are pedophiles waiting."
Biddeford Police Officer Liz Coleman, who manages the local sex offender registry, said there are some exceptions. Those out on bail or probation may have conditions imposed by the court that limit their contact with kids. There's also a statute prohibiting contact with minors for some offenders who committed a sex crime against a child under 14.
But even those rules come with a lot of gray area, especially when the kids are coming to the offenders.
"If they have their lights on, a child comes and knocks on the door, a group of children, (they say) 'Trick or treat' and he holds out a candy bowls, or she holds out candy bowl, they take candy and they leave, I would say that wouldn't be a violation we would look to prosecute," said Coleman.
She said it would be a different story if an offender had additional interaction with a child or invited them inside.
At least five states have passed "No Candy Laws," and O'Neal said Maine should follow suit.
"I think that's something we overlooked in the State of Maine," said O'Neal.
He doesn't worry as much about a child being violated on a front porch on Halloween, but said a simple interaction could lead to danger later on.
"If you go to a predator's house and he has big candy bars and he says, 'Listen, come back tomorrow and if I have some left over, I'll give it to you,' well of course the child's gonna go, 'You're gonna have candy left over and you're gonna give it to me? Sure I'll come back tomorrow,'" said O'Neal.
He urges parents to do a little homework before heading out. For example, they can check the Maine Sex Offender Registry and use crime tracking tools like Alert ID, which show offender locations on a map and can be found at wgme.com.
O'Neal also said parents should stay with their kids the entire time, even walking up to each door with them.
As for registered sex offenders, police recommend they turn off their porch lights and don't answer the door, keeping Halloween safe and sweet for everyone.