Official: Halloween child sex attacks unlikely

WARREN — With Halloween only a few days away, Law Director Gregory Hicks made it clear there is not an increased likelihood of registered sex offenders accosting children during this holiday than any other time of the year.

A nine-year study released in 2009 in the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers found there is no significant increase in the risk for non-familial child sexual abuse during this holiday period, Hicks said.  The vast majority of child sexual abuse cases — more than 80 percent — are done by persons related to or known to the children.

“It generally is not the stranger danger kind of incident that people imagine,” Hicks said.

The law director made the statement during Wednesday’s city council meeting in response to an effort by Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, to pass legislation that would prevent persons previously convicted of sex-related crimes from decorating their homes and doing anything that would attract children to their homes.

Although the legislation was placed into second reading, which means it will not be enforceable this weekend, Hicks said it is important for residents to feel safe when they go out trick or treating with their children.

“The data gathered for this study covered a period prior to and after similar laws had been enacted in various jurisdictions,” Hicks said. “I do not suggest there is no risk on Halloween or that anecdotal accounts of Halloween molestations should be dismissed.  However, there does not appear to be a need for alarm concerning increased sexual abuse of children on these particular days.”

After speaking to Trumbull County Sheriff Deputy Russ Molianatto, who is in charge of the registration of sex offenders, Hicks said the city does not have a disproportionate number of registered sex offenders living in it.

“There are those who may argue that such laws are worthwhile if they prevent just one child from being victimized,” Hicks said. “The burden placed on law enforcement to enforce such laws would be better allocated addressing more probable lawless events, including vandalism, theft, assault and traffic enforcement.”

Hicks said children ages 5 to 14 are four times more likely to suffer injury or death caused by a pedestrian-vehicle accident during Halloween than  any other time of the year.

“So a better use of our law enforcement personnel during these times would be patrolling our streets and enforcing traffic laws,” Hicks continued.

Novak said he introduced the legislation at the request of Molianatto.

“I am pleased we are having this discussion,” he said.  “I’ve spoken to Girard Mayor James Melfi and he said that city’s three-year-old law has been useful.”

Novak is expecting to continue the discussions about the proposed city ordinance, address community concerns and have it passed before next Halloween.

Hicks said people concerned about learning where with sex offenders are in their neighborhood can go the the sheriff’s website, sheriff.co.trumbull.oh.us, where they will be able to search for registered sex offenders in any given area, including their address and photo.

Councilman Larry Larson, D- 1st Ward, said he would like to see fewer kids going out to get candy on Halloween. Instead, he suggested, the city and community organizations should work together to have organized programs, such as trunk and treat, and programs at area churches.

In other matters, the council:

l Passed an ordinance allowing the city auditor to transfer unappropriated general fund funds from various departments to police and fire departments wages, fringe and pension benefits accounts, as well as smaller amounts to other fund accounts;

l Passed an ordinance allowing the administration to seek bids for the purchase of high calcium quicklime for use in the Water Pollution Control Center.

l Placed in second reading legislation that would place a one-year moratorium on the granting of building permits or certificates of occupancy of any structure that would enable the cultivation, processing or retail sale of medical marijuana;

l Passed an ordinance allowing the Trumbull County Public Defenders office to represent indigent Warren residents who appear in Warren Municipal Court for criminal offenses. With the approval of the contract, the city will pay the public defender’s office $25,000 for work done throughout  2017.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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