Don’t Say Boo


The scariest people on Halloween aren’t even allowed to say boo, let alone wear masks.

Yes, there will be no tricks and no treats for convicted sex offenders this year. State officials once again required a lockdown on them.

Beginning at 3 p.m. on October 31, or immediately following dismissal from work or community programs, the approximately 1,850 sex offenders on parole in New York state—670 of them in the city—are forbidden to go anywhere but home. They also are prohibited from wearing “any costume, mask or disguise.” And they have been ordered not to open their doors to trick-or-treaters.

But the offenders were told to answer their phones. As part of what was unimaginatively dubbed “Operation Halloween,” officials were scheduled to make calls throughout the night to the parolees, who are also required to open their doors to parole officers. Last Halloween, state parole officers claimed to have visited the homes, at least once, of every one of the approximately 1,900 sex offenders then on parole.

The annual operation targets all paroled sex offenders, not just those who victimized children. Parole spokesman Mark Johnson says the program—which is officially in its second year, but has been run in some form for about seven years—isn’t a response to any specific problems around Halloween, but rather is merely “done as a way of preventing any.”

And because, well, the authorities can do just about whatever they want when it comes to sex offenders.

Defense attorney Mark Gimpel says the restrictions seem “arbitrary and overbroad and appear to be of questionable constitutionality,” noting that if the parolees can be ordered to stay indoors that night, why can’t they be ordered to never leave their homes, no matter what day it is? But Gimpel, who is currently defending a man who he says is wrongly being forced to register as a sex offender, knows there won’t exactly be a groundswell of sympathy for those whom society has judged the creepiest.

“When sex offenders are involved, the rules basically go into the trash bin,” he says. “If you’re trying to defend the rights of a criminal defendant or parolee, you’re better off if they’re a murderer than a sex offender.”