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Sex offenders warned; no Halloween

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By Damon Lawrence

One pumpkin.

That's all it takes for some sex offenders to get in trouble this Halloween season.

The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole has put sex offenders on notice, sending out letters to let them know they are barred from participating in Halloween activities.

"It narrows down the opportunities they have to entice a child that may be unaccompanied by a parent," Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said.

"Whatever it is they are doing or have done in the past, you lessen that type of opportunity, so I think it's great."

The rules, which only apply to sex offenders who are under the supervision of the Board of Probation and Parole, prohibit them from answering their door for trick-or-treaters. No one in their home can answer the door, either.

Haunted houses, corn mazes and hay rides are "no-sex-offender" zones, as well.

Decorations, both on the inside and outside of homes, are not allowed.

One pumpkin sitting in a yard would be considered a violation of the rules, said Vyvian McCarthy, the Board of Probation and Parole director for District 2, which includes Roane County.

"We are trying to protect the public," she said.

Over the years, Halloween decorations have evolved to include spooky but enticing inflatables of witches, ghosts and other creatures that are especially attractive to children.

"Particularly 10- to 12-year-olds," Stockton said. "A lot of those guys trick-or-treat with each other or with a teenager."

To make sure sex offenders are following the rules, McCarthy said sporadic checks will be conducted in some areas.

There are 70 sex offenders living in Roane County, according to information posted on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Web site.

McCarthy said the important thing for the public to remember about the Halloween rules is they only apply to sex offenders under the supervision of the Board of Probation and Parole.

"I don't think the public is aware that we don't supervise everybody," McCarthy said. "They get upset, but I don't know if we could ever do that."

Sex offenders are prohibited from participating in the following activities this Halloween season:

* Neither they, nor anyone in their home, can answer the door to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

* They cannot pass out candy.

* Their homes cannot be decorated for Halloween - inside or outside.

* They cannot host Halloween parties at their homes.

* They cannot go to haunted houses, corn mazes, hay rides or any other seasonal activity.

* They cannot be at any function where children are gathered, including at other private residences.

* They cannot give any Halloween treats to children.

* They cannot wear costumes.

* They cannot take any child trick-or-treating.