Oct 30 2012
Download story podcast 12:37 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 By JULISSA McKINNONThe Press-Enterprise
PDF: Read Perris proposal for Halloween restrictions for sex offenders.
Handing out candy, putting out a pumpkin and turning on a porch light on Halloween night could soon become punishable offenses for registered sex offenders living in Perris.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider following in the footsteps of the state of Missouri and one California city by barring registered sex offenders from engaging in a few time-honored Halloween customs that invite costumed, candy-seeking children to neighbors’ doors.
Perris’ proposed ordinance is almost identical to one passed earlier this year in the Orange County city of Orange that outlaws registered sex offenders from trimming their houses with Halloween decorations, turning on outdoor lighting after dark and opening their doors to trick-or-treating children on Oct. 31.
there has been no organized opposition to the ordinance, which would take effect Oct. 28 if approved.
Anxiety over sex offenders reached a fever pitch last month at the prospect of convicted child rapist and killer Donald Schmidt moving into a halfway house in good Hope, just east of Perris. Shortly after the halfway home operators denied Schmidt a room, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors passed new restrictions for unincorporated areas that temporarily banned parolee homes and required sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet from schools, parks and child care centers.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael Weir, a former correctional sergeant who worked at Riverside County jails for 21 years, first suggested the Halloween changes in January.
Weir said the process took almost nine months because the commission meets only every two to three months and the original proposal needed some fine-tuning.
an earlier draft of the ordinance mirrored Missouri law and would have required sex offenders to remain quarantined inside their homes from 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Halloween and also to post signs on their residence announcing that they did not have candy.
"After talking to the director and some law enforcement officers, I think if we put a sign out in front of their house, you’re kind of singling that house out as a pedophile house and that’s not my intention," Weir said at a June 9 public safety commission meeting where officials revised the ordinance. "My intention was to make children safe."
although anyone can use California’s Megan’s Law website to track the names and addresses of registered sex offenders living in their area, Weir said not every parent does. For this reason, Weir said he believes public officials need to find other ways to prevent child contact with convicted pedophiles.
"you don’t want to target the person who broke the law. If they’ve done their time, they’ve registered and they’re doing what they have to do, they have the right to live in peace. but we also have the right to protect our kids," said Weir, who has a 15-year-old daughter.
"This is to prevent it from happening — the girl walking home from school getting kidnapped," he said, referring to the recent kidnapping and murder of 17-year-old Norma Lopez, of Moreno Valley, who disappeared as she was walking home from school.
"We’re trying to give law enforcement another tool to prevent these things from happening in the future."
Sheriff’s Capt. James McElvain, who serves as Perris’ and Menifee’s police chief, said there’s no enforcement plan for the proposed Halloween ordinance, but one would be created if it becomes law. According to the Perris ordinance, there are 218 registered sex offenders residing in Perris.
"It’s like enforcing any other law; you catch what you can catch. but can we put something together involving a couple of people from our station doing compliance checks? Sure. We could also try and call in the SAFE (Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement) team from our region to come out and do those at the same time," McElvain said. "It’s a matter of planning."
If approved, a violation of the new ordinance would be considered a disturbance of the peace, which is a misdemeanor. The punishment is up to six months in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, or both, according to the Perris Municipal Code.
Lirra Bishop, a 39-year-old mother who led protests outside the Perris area home of convicted rapist David Allyn Dokich in 2005 and recently spoke out about Schmidt coming to good Hope, said the Halloween rules couldn’t hurt, but she called it "another Band-Aid on this whole sex offender problem."
"We can do a little thing here and a little thing there but the problem still exists," said Bishop, who has a 15-year-old son. "I think we need to start on the state level and start overseeing the overseers — the people who place the sex offenders. I really don’t think that they’re doing their job."
Bishop said a convicted child molester who lives a half-block from her house decorates his house for Halloween annually and there’s not been an issue with trick-or-treaters going there that she’s aware of.
Still, she said that doesn’t mean people should assume child contact with sex offenders is safe. She said it takes neighbor involvement to ensure that laws like the proposed Halloween ordinance get enforced.
"People’s attitudes have to change," she said. "Nobody cares until their child is victimized."
Reach Julissa McKinnon at 951-375-3730 or
PROPOSED SEX OFFENDER LAW
Perris City Council will consider Halloween house rules for registered sex offenders prohibiting holiday decorations, outdoor lighting and opening the door for trick-or-treaters
WHAT: City Council meeting
WHEN: 6 p.m., Tuesday
WHERE: City Council chambers, 101 N. D Street, Perris