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Operation Halloween monitors sex offenders closely

By WKTV News

Officials say that sex offenders under the supervision of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) will be closely monitored on Halloween to help ensure that New York’s children and their parents can safely enjoy holiday festivities in their neighborhoods.

Under its Operation Halloween initiative, the agency imposes special conditions on sex offenders that are on parole and living in the community. The program is now in its seventh year.

“Providing a safe and secure community is our highest priority at any time of the year, but Halloween presents unique challenges and we take extra precautions to ensure the safety of children as they enjoy this tradition across the state,” DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said. “As part of this effort, which began in 2006, our officers impose special conditions, conduct surveillance, and make unannounced home visits and curfew checks at sex offender’s residences on Halloween. These efforts provide an additional level of security that helps parents feel that their children are protected and can enjoy Halloween.”

The agency’s Community Supervision staff is responsible for the supervision 2,440 sex offenders on parole statewide. As part of Operation Halloween, the Department imposes the following special restrictions on those sex offenders:

• Beginning in the early afternoon on Halloween, or immediately following the end of their work day or completion of an approved community program, all sex offender parolees are to remain in their residence until 6 a.m. the following morning.

• Parolees are not permitted to participate in any Halloween activity; not permitted to wear any costume, mask or other disguise; and cannot open the door to trick-or-treaters.

• In addition, parolees are required to answer their telephones as Parole Officers will be making calls throughout the night, as well as conducting unannounced curfew visits. During those visits, parole officers will have with them portable DVD players to ensure that parolees are not in possession of inappropriate CDs and/or DVDs.

New Yorkers can learn about registered sex offenders in a variety of ways, with an offender’s risk level determining what information is available and how that information can be accessed.

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) reminds parents that they can use Facebook to access information about medium- and high-risk sex offenders living in their community with just a few clicks, and without leaving the popular social networking site.

The Sex Offender Locator Application is accessible via the New York State Public Safety Facebook page.

Facebook users also can share the application by posting this link as their Status update: http://www.facebook.com/NYSPublicSafety/app_244298272262448

DCJS maintains the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a Registry subdirectory on the agency’s website that by law provides information about Level 2 (medium risk of re-offense) and Level 3 (high risk of re-offense) sex offenders to the public.

The agency launched the Facebook application in time for Halloween last year, as a way to make Registry information more readily accessible.

To access the Registry via a mobile device, visit http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/nsor

As of Monday, Oct. 15, there were 34,694 registered sex offenders on the state’s Sex Offender Registry: 13,177 Level 1 offenders; 12,255 Level 2 offenders; 8,541 Level 3 offenders; and 721 offenders whose risk level is pending.

A sex offender’s risk level determines what information is available about an offender, and how that information can be accessed. By law, the state can only provide information about Level 1 (low risk of re-offense) offenders or those with a pending risk level through a toll-free number (1-800-262-3257); callers must have an individual’s name and at least one other identifier (an exact address, date of birth, driver's license number or Social Security number) to learn if that person is a registered sex offender in New York.

Home address information about a Level 1 offender is limited to zip code. Complete home and work addresses – street number and name, as well as municipality and zip code – are available for Level 2 and Level 3 offenders.

In addition to providing information about Level 2 and 3 offenders via Facebook and the DCJS website, the state allows New Yorkers to sign up to receive alerts via e-mail, text, fax or telephone whenever those sex offenders move to, or from, a community of interest – their home, work or child’s school, for example. DCJS offers the sex offender relocation notices through the state’s NY-ALERT system; visit www.nyalert.gov and click on the “Sign up for NY-Alerts” link in the left menu to learn more and register.

Individuals can register up to three locations, either by county/municipality, zip code or specific address, or any combination of those three options, for which they would like to receive relocation alerts. Nearly 15,700 individuals are registered to receive e-alerts.

In 2011, the Sex Offender Registry staff processed more than 54,000 forms submitted by offenders notifying the registry of changes to their address, employment, internet and motor vehicle information. On average, about 170 new offenders are added to the registry each month. Registry staff members consistently meet DCJS goal of processing any new registration within one business day of receipt, and any change to an offender’s information within two business days.

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