Sex Offender in Disguise

By: Melissa Wollering Email
By: Melissa Wollering Email

Posted Thursday --- October 25, 2007 -- 10:00pm

An important warning for parents: make sure your trick-or-treaters aren't lured to wrong door this Halloween. It is the one place you should stop before sending your kids out into the neighborhood- the state's sex offender registry.

Some sex offenders are not allowed to answer their doors on Halloween. Others are free to hand out candy. So how do you avoid a situation that could jeopardize your child's safety?

Renee Pingel of Sun Prairie takes her kids trick-or-treating each year. This year, she and other parents are on higher alert, trying to watch out for sex offenders.

"I think we hear more on the news and see more about the predators and them being listed," says Pingel.

Still, Pingel feels her isolated neighborhood is safer than most.

"I feel comfortable going with our kids at night and I love it because I know the neighbors that they're going to," says Pingel.

NBC 15 checked the area around Pingel's home. Within two miles of it, we found two sex offenders. One had been convicted of child enticement. The other has been convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child.

Melissa Roberts of the State Department of Corrections says more parents are mapping their kids routes using the state registry. Roberts says many offenders are mandated to keep their doors closed on the holiday.

"Sex offenders who are on active community supervision to us may not participate in any Halloween or trick or treat activities," says Roberts.

But not all offenders are on active community supervision. Some have been released from the program and can hand out candy to children.

"Those folks are not under our jurisdiction or our rules," says Roberts.

One example is James Hatcher who lives less than a mile from the Pingel's. He is no longer under supervision and is non-compliant according to the state's website. Agents are visiting the homes of some offenders next week to make sure they are keeping their distance. Still, to avoid a surprise and a criminal in disguise, the Pingel's say they will learn more before going door-to-door.

"I would love to go back and have the kids be able to trick or treat like they used to, I mean it's a fun time for them," says Renee Pingel. "But I'd be lying if I say I wouldn't be concerned."

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