The county has about 160 registered sex offenders, but tonight's effort only applies to those under supervised probation.
Offenders have been told to keep their porch lights off and refrain from any Halloween activity, like scary decorations, that might attract trick-or-treaters to their homes. Authorities say the Operation Lights Out is part of strategy begun last year to dissuade offenders from interacting with children.
Stanley Clark, supervisor of the county's Probation and Parole Office, said there has never been a reported incident on Halloween, but authorities don't want to risk the good record.
“We're doing this as a precautionary measure for the safety of the children,” Clark said. “We're trying to protect the children. This is a prime time for them to maybe do some damage to a child or abduct a child.”
About 10 county probation officers will fan out across the county beginning at 5 p.m. to check on sex offenders. Those who fail to comply will be charged with violating probation.
Officers will review court-ordered sanctions with each offender then continue to check the offender's homes throughout the night, Clark said.
“We've already contacted each one of them and they've been told that they're not to have their porch lights on, they're not supposed to be advertising or inviting children to trick-or-treat,” Clark said. “We'll make personal contact with the sex offender and do a visual of the inside and outside of the home to be sure there's nothing out of the ordinary going on.”
Robeson County isn't the only place planning to keep a close watch on sex offenders tonight. Sex offenders on probation and living in Gaston County are under orders to spend part of Halloween at the county courthouse. The 60 registered offenders will watch an informational video, register any address changes and listen to authorities talk about new sex-offender laws.
Sex offenders in Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia and New York also have been warned that authorities will be watching them closely on Halloween. In Taylor Falls, Minn., the City Council recently passed an ordinance that prohibits certain sex offenders from dressing up for Halloween, Christmas or Easter.