Sex offenders targeted during Halloween patrol

COAST CITIES — On Halloween night a parolee sex offender in Escondido was caught possessing child pornography and was one of three sex offenders who were arrested and sent back to jail for violating the conditions of their parole.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or CDCR, completed its 18th year of Operation Boo, which is conducted annually to ensure that sex offenders comply with the strict limitations set for them on Halloween.
In San Diego County, 23 state parole agents worked the special operation to help keep trick-or-treaters safe from sexual predators.
Two arrests took place in Escondido, and one in Harmony Grove, an unincorporated area near Escondido, said Lindon Lewis, a state parole administrator of GPS supervision, the Escondido-based San Diego County division.
One sex offender parolee was arrested for the use of alcohol, he said.
“Another parolee we had contact with had possession of child pornography,” Lewis said.
The sex offender in the Harmony Grove area was arrested for violating Jessica’s Law, and was located in an unauthorized house within 2,000 feet of a school, he said.
“We made contact at the residence, and no children were present and the lights were out, but the home was not a compliant location and the parolee cannot be there,” Lewis said.
The sex offenders must comply with strict limitations year-round, but the operation places special limits on them during Halloween to prevent families from coming into contact with them, according to Cassandra Hockenson, spokeswoman with CDCR.
The rules include a curfew between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Halloween night when parolees must remain indoors.
The houses parolees are in cannot be decorated for Halloween or have any lights on, and candy cannot be handed out from the residence.
The offenders can only open the door to law enforcement, according to CDCR.
About 600 sex offenders in the county each wear a global positioning system, or GPS, unit, which is a rubber strap with fiber optic lines that are electronically monitored by the state parole, Lewis said.
The Halloween night operation included help from the Escondido Police Department, and about 40 contacts were made with registered sex offenders who underwent surveillance and were then searched for any violations, he said.
The CDCR reported that 92 arrests were made on Oct. 31 that stemmed from 900 parolee sex offender visits statewide.
The GPS parole supervision division has permanent exclusion zones in place that alert authorities if an offender enters the zone.
Lewis said the GPS tool uses software that can identify whether any parolees are at certain locations, and works as a deterrent “to be able to eliminate this population of 600 from being at a location.”
The zones are monitored for any alerts.
“We respond to zone alerts,” he said.
Permanent exclusion zones in the county include popular family and tourist attractions such as the San Diego Zoo and Legoland, Lewis said.
But on Halloween, new exclusion zones were created to include locations that attract children, such as school carnivals, he said.
“What we did is create virtual zones,” Lewis said.
Along with using the GPS zone deterrent, state parole and Escondido law enforcement drove by and personally checked on about 80 recorded addresses, he said.
None of the zones were violated this year, but last year during Halloween night operation there were two arrests for zone violations, he said.
Hockenson said statistics on the number of arrests during Operation Boo were not recorded in the past, but Lewis recalls between four and five arrests in the county from last year’s operation.
“One (arrest) was in Oceanside. We used GPS and found him in possession of children’s toys,” Lewis said.
“The other individual had his home decorated for Halloween,” he said.
Sex offenders who have violated a condition of their parole are subject to a hearing that takes place within 35 days of their arrest, Lewis said.
Arrestees face up to one year in state prison for violating a condition of their parole, he said.

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