Cole County Sheriff's Department deputies fanned out throughout Jefferson City and Cole County on Halloween, not to trick or treat, but to verify registered sex offenders were complying with Halloween restrictions.
Per Missouri law, any person required to register as a sexual offender since 2008 must follow certain rules on Oct. 31.
The law requires offenders to:
• Avoid all Halloween-related contact with children;
• Remain inside the residence between the hours of 5-10:30 p.m., unless required to be elsewhere for just cause, including but not limited to employment or medical emergencies;
• Post a sign on the residence stating, "No candy or treats at this residence;"
• Leave all outside residential lighting off during the evening hours after 5 p.m.
In Cole County, 26 offenders are required to comply with the Halloween restrictions.
Deputies found one offender to be out of compliance. One offender did not follow the signage requirement, but a correction was immediately made. One offender was not home, but his location was verified and met the law's exceptions.
Violators can be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
The annual Halloween offender checks are in conjunction with a larger Cole County Sheriff's Department program that started three years ago to verify all registered sex offenders in Cole County.
Deputies make contact with registered offenders to verify their required information. Offenders who are not home are investigated further to verify residency by checking mail delivery, vehicles at the residence and speaking with neighbors.
Deputies also look for proximity to child care and schools, vehicles accessible to the offenders, and any other intelligence in plain sight.
"This verification program does not eliminate the requirement that offenders register, but it validates what they have reported and they now know they will be checked," said Sheriff Greg White.
Under Missouri law, offenders are required to register within three days of a conviction or plea, regularly update their information with local law enforcement, advise any moves within three days, report employment or if attending educational institutions, and, if convicted after July 2004, cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility.
There are 123 offenders registered in Cole County, and the public can access the offender database via the Cole County Sheriff's Department website at www.colecountysheriff.org.