AUBURN | While animals, superheroes and monsters spent Halloween working to fill pillowcases with sugary loot, four law enforcement officers joined the county's children as they went from door to door.
But the officers weren't trick-or-treating.
The three probation officers and one Auburn police officer were checking up on sex offenders still on parole to ensure the registered felons were not partaking in the child-centered holiday.
Thanks to the state's Operation Halloween initiative, enacted in 2006, the 2,440 sex offenders on parole statewide are prohibited from celebrating Halloween — even within the confines of their own homes.
They cannot don costumes or deck their homes with Halloween decor, or open their doors for trick-or-treaters. They cannot enjoy candy, and cannot turn on their porch lights. And, unless given special permission, the sex offenders must stay inside their homes from 3 p.m. on Halloween until 6 a.m. on Nov. 1.
These special measures, Parole Officer Dawn Marquart said, are meant to keep the community's children safe.
As she and Identification Officer Andy Skardinski, of the APD, climbed into her car to visit the 11 sex offenders on parole in Auburn, Marquart explained she and her fellow officers were looking for items particularly outlawed on Halloween.
"Today we're making sure they don't have any candy, no decorations," she said.
The first stop on the officers' list was the Budget Inn, a State Street motel — or, as the officers called it, a "one-stop shop" — that currently houses 10 sex offenders, six of whom are still on parole.
Marquart and Skardinski visited five rooms, checking the parolees' fridges for alcohol and ensuring the men weren't harboring any prohibited Halloween paraphernalia. The men opened their doors just enough to let the officers in, shutting the doors quickly.
Although one parolee was still at work, Marquart said he wouldn't escape supervision.
"We'll be back," she told the man's roommate.
Of the more than 500 parolees visited in central New York last year on Halloween, only five offenders were taken into custody for violations — a trend Skardinski didn't find surprising.
"That's because they're forewarned that we're going to come around," he said.
Before heading out of Auburn to pay visits to two parolees in Cato and one in Weedsport, the officers stopped by the Osborne Street home of a level-three sex offender.
Although the residence wasn't decorated with fake spiderwebs or orange lights, two uncarved pumpkins, a scarecrow and a dried corn stalk were in the home's front yard. Because the offender had a wife and the decorations were fall themed, Skardinski said the decorations weren't necessarily a problem.
"I wouldn't say that entices children to come to the house," he said.
If the sexually violent offender wasn't married, Skardinski said, that might be a different story.
Marquart said the special Halloween rules only apply to offenders under the supervision of a parole officer — meaning the 81 registered sex offenders in Cayuga County not on parole are free to celebrate Halloween as they please.