Sex Offenders Targeted in 'Operation Safe Sweets'

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Dear NBC Weather Team, I took this photograph last night to celebrate Halloween.  Please let me know if you plan to use it!  We only watch Ch 5 news.  I have submitted a number of photos in the past and hope you like this one. Title: Halloween Pumpkin Carving with Friends Photographer: Beth VanderMeer Location: Joliet, IL Date: October 30, 2009 Thanks! Beth VanderMeer eev512@yahoo.com 708-359-1330

    Smiling mom Sue Mavaro was hunting for costumes for her teenage son at the Magic Shop in Hicksville; but when asked, admitted that Halloween isn't her favorite day.

    "Halloween just scares me because its a night when people think they can do whatever they want," said the mother of three from North Massapequa.

    Those who track sex offenders share the same concerns.

    "The real Halloween monsters aren't wearing costumes," said child advocate Laura Ahearn.  "They look just like you and me."

    Again, this year, Nassau county is launching an all out effort to shield young trick-or-treaters from sex offenders.  It's called "Operation Safe Sweets."

    More than two dozen probation officers will fan out across Nassau to visit the homes of all 200 sex offenders now on probation in the county.  Their aim is to make sure sex offenders are staying away from kids.

    Halloween is supposed to be off limits to most sex offenders, probation officials said.  Some are not even allowed to put out decorations.

    "Just a pumpkin on the front steps could be reason enough for us to have a discussion with an offender," said Nassau county's acting probation director, John Fowle.

    The home visits make a difference, according to Fowle.  One year, he says, probation officers found a sex offender working in a costume shop.  He was immediately hauled into court and a GPS tracking device was ordered strapped to his leg.

    "Typically, sex offenders will do whatever they can to access children and get to know them," warned Ahearn of the non-profit, Parents for Megan's Law.

    Parents can visit that group's website (ParentsForMegansLaw.org) and actually determine if and where sex offenders are living in their neighborhood.

    Steer kids away from those homes, urges Ahearn.  And keep close to kids while they are trick-or-treating, especially when they are interacting with adults.

     "That's what I do," said grandmother Lily Arnold.

    "It's good that parents and older people go with kids to make sure they are safe."