Tennessee correction officers made sure the public was safe this Halloween in relation to convicted sex offenders. Law enforcement officials performed surprise visits to hundreds of offenders' homes in an effort to make sure they are following the rules as part of Operation Blackout to protect the high numbers of children out on Halloween.
Multiple agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Correction and prison officers, U.S. Marshals, county sheriff's deputies and city police, checked on high-risk offenders Wednesday night and those whose victims were younger than 18 years old. It is a team effort to tackle Hamilton, Sequatchie, Marion, Bledsoe and Rhea counties all in one night. According to the law, offenders can't have decorations, parties or candy around.
"Halloween is the one night a year when children are constantly in the streets. Some parents are with their children. Some parents are not. So, the access to the potential victims in really, really huge," said Elizabeth Hammond, a probation and parole manager for the Tennessee Department of Correction.
A Newschannel9 crew rode along with a few correction officers and passed a church along Highway 58 in Hamilton County hosting a "Trunk or Treat" event.
"There's no way for the church to track them, who's coming in and who's coming out. Obviously, they know who's giving out the candy, or should, but it's just another place, invite to sexual predators," said David Lane, the deputy district director with the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
One mom was out trick-or-treating with her two children in her neighborhood, and she said she feels safe knowing officers are going door-to-door.
"Always check your neighborhoods, check where you live. That way you know who's in your community and what to look for," said Danielle Pascua, a concerned mother. "I think it's fantastic. It keeps everybody in line."
Not all of the convicted sex offenders the officers visited obeyed the probation rules. Officers said most of offenders are not allowed to have access to the internet or any electronic media, such as computers, laptops, smartphones or gaming systems. Any offender with a probation violation will be reported, and that may end in jail time. However, Lane said all offenders were home and obeyed the rules of Halloween while NewsChannel 9 rode along.
State cars continued their patrols to reach nearly 150 offenders in the area. Last week, law enforcement visited about 90 lower-risk sex offenders who victims were older than 18 years old. By Briona Arradondo