Officials pushing Halloween safety

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Area law enforcement agencies are determined to limit contact Tuesday between convicted sex offenders and Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Sex offenders on probation in Curry County will be required to post a sign identifying their residence as a home of a sex offender, according to Curry County probation and parole supervisor Keith Wattenbarger. Offenders will also be required to turn off their outside lights and have no contact with children, he said.

Wattenbarger also said probation and parole officers will make at least two visits to the residences of the 16 sex offenders under the jurisdiction of the probation and parole division.

“Halloween night, everybody we have on adult probation that is a sex offender will be visited multiple times,” he said.

“Part of the preventative action on our part is to make sure people have a safe holiday and don’t have any problems.”

Home checks will include verifying signs are posted, outside lights are off and there are no children in the home. Wattenbarger said officers will also check to see if offenders are in possession of pornography, forbidden under their probation terms, and will look at computers to check Internet activity.

Registered sex offenders not on probation are not required to post signs, officials said.

However, officers from the Curry County Sheriff’s Department and 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will monitor those residences, Wattenbarger said.

“We just wanted to take the lead on this so we don’t have any problems. We don’t have a lot of trouble with sex offenders (in the area) because we do have a lot of people keeping their eyes peeled,” he said.

All offenders have been notified and thus far have been cordial about the mandates, Wattenbarger said.

Sex offender registration is handled by the Curry County Sheriff’s office, which maintains lists of offenders and verifies their addresses, Sheriff Roger Hatcher said.
There are currently 42 registered sex offenders in Curry County listed on the state of New Mexico’s sex offender Web site.

The extra attention on sex offenders on a holiday with high activity for children is a good preventative measure, Hatcher said, explaining he’s in favor of officers doing everything in their power under the law to ensure public safety.