New sex offender app aims to make Halloween safer for children

- In just a few days, ghosts, goblins and ghouls will take over the streets of the Bay Area as thousands of children trick-or-treat. Local law enforcement will also be out in large numbers, making sure everyone’s safe.

This time of the year, area departments keep a closer eye on the thousands of registered sexual offenders and predators living across our region. Officers want to make sure when your kids start knocking on doors this Halloween, someone dangerous won’t be answering.

Since last week, Tampa police have been paying visits to hundreds of homes, putting sexual offenders and predators on notice. In addition to the visits, offenders are also getting fliers to remind them the holiday comes with a laundry list of do’s and don’ts.

“On the 31st when the kids are out, the porch light can’t be on, no outward decorations for Halloween, anything that’s gonna make somebody want to come and knock on your door,” one officer explained.

Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk counties have the highest number of registered sex offenders in our area. Officers go door-to-door letting them know they’re being watched, especially if they committed crimes against children.

“Us as parents and law enforcement, we need to make sure it’s not only the most fun night, it’s the safest night,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

Police are also urging parents to be vigilant this time of year. You can make sure ahead of time your kids won’t knock on the wrong door.

“Know who the sexual predators are that live in your neighborhood. Go online and know where these individuals live. It’s not a secret,” said Chronister.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement keeps a database of the registered sex offenders in the state. Parents can use that to check trick-or-treat routes, or download the new FDLE Mobile App so the addresses of those offenders are at your fingertips.

“With your location services turned on, you can see exactly where the registered sexual offenders and predators are around you with your phone,” FDLE Tampa Bay Region Special Agent in Charge Mark Brutnell said.

On the app you can zoom, move around, and even click on the markers for more information about any registered sex offender.

Officers will be out knocking on doors Tuesday, as well as the 31st, checking to make sure every sex offender and predator is following the rules.

“Somebody will come back by on Halloween as well, just to make sure you guys are staying in compliance,” said a Tampa police officer.

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