DOBSON — Along with any ghosts or goblins who happen to be out tonight, deputies with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office will be paying Halloween visits to registered sex offenders.
“We accomplish several goals with this,” Sheriff Jimmy Combs said Monday of an annual program by his department which is conducted on Halloween night, including having officers out in force to curtail vandalism or other holiday-related crimes.
Another involves fulfilling a requirement to maintain up-to-date records of the registered sex offenders in Surry County, who now number 122, according to the sheriff.
“However, 11 of those are in custody in various locations,” Combs added. “The remaining 111 sex offenders will be checked on Halloween night.”
The visits are aimed at keeping track of those individuals to ensure they are complying with specified rules of conduct.
For one, registered sex offenders are required to inform authorities any time they move. The Sheriff’s Office also must keep a recent photo of each offender on file and know where each is working.
Officers tonight will be making sure that the offenders are in compliance with terms and conditions imposed upon them by the court system and North Carolina’s sex offender statutes.
“It’s not mandatory that they are there,” Lt. Gerald LeFevre said of offenders being at home while the visits are conducted, explaining that ones who aren’t there tonight will receive further visits. ‘We continue until we do find them,” he said.
“The majority of them will,” LeFevre said in reference to offenders being at their residences today.
Among the many requirements for registered sex offenders is one stipulating that if an individual does move, he or she must report the new address in writing to the Sheriff’s Office within three days. Offenders also must report any change in employment.
If an offender is found to not be living at the residence that person has listed, then officers do a follow-up investigation and he or she will be charged with the appropriate violations.
“We probably have five to 10 cases that we continue to follow up on,” LeFevre said of what officers typically encounter as a result of the annual Halloween night campaign. Of those, two or three people usually get charged with offenses, mostly due to violating the requirement to list their present addresses with the Sheriff’s Office.
“Making sure sex offenders are in compliance is just another way to protect the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community, our children,” the sheriff explained.
Sex offenders are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a public or non-public school or child-care center. Offenders also are restricted from other areas such as children’s museums, nurseries or playgrounds. In Surry County, they are prohibited from visiting county parks and parks in Mount Airy, Dobson and Elkin.
More than 20 deputies will be involved in tonight’s effort to check on registered sex offenders, which the sheriff says highlights its security-related goal.
This visibility of officers circulating throughout the county will have the dual purpose of helping to safeguard the area from vandalism and prank crimes committed on the holiday.
“We want everybody to go out and have a good time on Halloween, but not at the expense of someone else’s property,” Combs said Monday.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.