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|November 2, 2010
Director of Communications
Probation Officers Pay Unannounced Visits to Sex Offenders Tonight
to Prevent Them from Opening Doors to Trick or Treaters
Sex offenders on probation across the state received unannounced visits Halloween night from their Probation Officers to ensure that they did not open their doors to trick or treaters.
Probation Officers had taken a number of precautionary measures to prevent sex offenders on probation from coming into contact with children, 16 and under, this Halloween.
In addition to the unannounced visits Sunday evening, Probation Officers began warning sex offenders over the past two weeks to not answer their doors, turn on porch lights, or set-up Halloween decorations outside of their homes.
Some Probation Officers have forwarded letters to the offenders discouraging them from distributing candy. In one county, Probation Officers restricted the comings and goings of sex offenders, monitored by electronic bracelet. There are 750 sex offenders monitored by the GPS bracelet in Massachusetts.
In Bristol County, Fall River District Court Probation Officers went out with local police in a joint effort called "Operation Lights Out." Probation Officers made surprise visits to the homes of 16 sex offenders in Fall River and surrounding towns, including Fall River, Swansea, and Westport.
Fall River District Court Probation Officers Mark Costa and Ana Contreras made contact with 11 of the 16 identified sex offenders.
"Offenders adhered to Probation's warning that their lights are to be out and that they are not to welcome trick or treaters to their homes. We want to thank the police departments in all three cities and towns for their assistance in this operation," Costa said.
Fall River Probation Officer Michael Borden introduced the idea for Operation Lights Out four years ago.
In Berkshire County, Probation Officers have stressed to sex offenders on probation that they should not open their doors to children and to even avoid leaving their home during this time.
Clifford Nilan, Berkshire County Superior Court Chief Probation Officer, said it is the standard practice of his department to instruct Probation Officers to remind sex offenders in advance of any holiday about appropriate behavior and remaining in compliance with the terms of their probation.
Nilan's Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Michael L. Koperniak, added, "We encourage probationers to be very mindful. If they are home on Halloween night, we caution them against going out for a walk in the community."
Essex County Superior Court Chief Probation Officer Martin Wallace said Probation Officers routinely remind sex offenders to obey the "no contact order" which is part of their probationary terms. This, Wallace said, is especially emphasized during holidays such as Halloween.
"It's common sense. It's Halloween. Don't be around children and don't be passing out candy," Wallace said.
Norfolk County Superior Acting Chief Probation Officer Milton Britton said offenders were put on notice in advance in the form of mail, phone calls, and home visits prior to the holiday.
Probation Officers from Britton's court have also instructed the offenders to attend an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NAA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting during the peak trick or treating time period.
Plymouth Superior Court Probation Officer II Katherine Calapa monitors the sex offenders under her supervision by sitting outside of their homes on Halloween night to ensure that they do not open the door to youngsters. Calapa goes as far as entering the offenders' homes to make sure they do not have candy or other Hallo.
"I make sure that I am there to monitor offenders and that they follow the terms of their probation which is to not come into contact with children," said Calapa who has successfully used this same approach every Halloween. "If I see a bowl of candy, I know something is wrong. I also make sure that they do not have Halloween costumes in homes."
Worcester County Superior Court Chief Probation Officer Thomas Turco directs his Probation Officers to contact sex offenders on their caseloads to caution them not to open their doors to trick or treaters. For offenders on the electronic bracelet, Radio Frequency (RF) or GPS (Global Positioning Satellite), Turco is working in collaboration with Probation's Electronic Monitoring Program to track offenders utilizing these devices- ensuring that they remain inside their homes.
"We notified every sex offender and informed them that they must keep their lights off and not encourage youngsters to come to their homes," Turco said.
Worcester Superior Court Probation Officers Emilio Cruz, Tim Dupree, and Miluzka Munoz also checked on sex offenders who reside at area homeless shelters to confirm that they were not in contact with children 16 years old and younger.
Middlesex County Superior Court Probation Officers enforced a "verbal policy," according to Assistant Chief Probation Officer Stephen Mulloy.
"We verbally instruct the offenders not to give out candy. Everyone is verbally informed," Mulloy said.
Frank Glenowicz, Acting Chief Probation Officer at Franklin County Superior Court, said of the sex offenders supervised in the area, "We called and put them on notice that they are not to hand out candy that night and to expect a visit from their Probation Officer."
In Suffolk County, First Assistant Chief Probation Officer Linda Owens of Suffolk Superior Court, said "We instructed and informed Probation Officers to tell sex offenders not to give out candy or open doors to children."