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Precaution or scaremongering? Georgia town to round up sex offenders for Halloween evening

Precaution or scaremongering? Georgia town to round up sex offenders for Halloween evening
The mayor of a small town in Georgia announced that all sex offenders living on parole in the community will be forced to spend several hours on Halloween evening in the city hall under guard.

Gary Jones is the mayor of Grovetown, a town of some 13,000 residents close to the border with South Carolina. On Monday he announced on his Facebook page that some 25 to 30 people living in the area, who are sex offenders on parole, will spend the peak of treat-or-treating time on Halloween next week in the city hall “in order to ensure the safety of our children.”

In a follow-up post on Tuesday he said he was not going to personally round up people next Wednesday, but is instead working with the Community Probation Services to enforce the decision. “This is legal..... good grief!” the mayor wrote.

The decision is apparently based on an urban myth that on Halloween evening children are more vulnerable to sex offenders than on any other day. Contrary to the common wisdom, this theory is not backed by statistical evidence, reported Washington Post citing a study published in 2009 in the journal Sexual Abuse.

Town residents seem to be divided on the merit of Mayor Jones initiative. “I think it’s a good idea if they can pull it off. That way people don’t have to worry about their kids. They should still walk around with their kids and not let them go trick or treating by themselves,” a parent, Tim Hester, told WFXG.

“From my perspective it should be case by case. By who needs to go and who doesn’t,” said another parent, Bethany Williamson.

Some commenters said the round-up made little sense and seemed more like a publicity stunt on the part of the mayor.

“Did you know you can be put on the sex offender list in Georgia for public urination? Also, if you’re going to do this, why stop at sex offenders? Why not include robbers, nonsexual assaulters, kidnappers, and murderers?” Facebook user Marcus Mackenzie responded to the announcement. “This is one of those instances where an elected official is just pandering for good press. ‘Tough’ on crime is not always smart on crime.”

“So you set up a [sic] internment camp in city hall for the offenders that you choose. No murders or rapist or drug dealers. How many times are you going to humiliate & punish these people??” wrote Matthew Anderson.

Others called for more punitive (and potentially unlawful) action.

“It should read all ‘convicted’ sex offenders. It’s a start BUT there are probably more out there, but haven’t been convicted of their crimes or caught up with yet,” believes David Frazier.

Jones is no stranger to controversial methods in law enforcement. In 2014, when he was Grovetown’s police chief, one of his first decision was to dress jail inmates into pink uniforms. At the time he was inspired by the example of controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who chose a similar dressing code for inmates.

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