FARMINGTON — Sex offenders in San Juan County will be under law enforcement's watchful eye on Halloween.
Convicted sex offenders on probation or parole are banned from celebrating Halloween in New Mexico. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is working with U.S. Marshals Service agents and probation and parole officers on Thursday night to make sure the local offenders don't try to dress up or pass out candy.
There are about 40 convicted sex offenders in San Juan County who are on probation or parole. On Halloween, a team of marshals will visit those on federal probation or parole, and five teams that include a deputy, reserve deputy and a probation and parole officer will visit all convicted sex offenders on the state's probation and parole programs, said Deputy Robert Tallman, who oversees the county's sex-offender registry program.
Those sex offenders have a 6 p.m. curfew and they can't dress up, decorate their homes or pass out candy, said Daniel Barela, the manager of New Mexico Corrections Department Probation and Parole for northern New Mexico. said.
If they are caught carving pumpkins, passing out candy or wearing a costume, they can be arrested on the spot, he said.
The convicted offenders recently signed documents stating they understood their restrictions, he said.
"They've been instructed to keep their front porch lights off and keep their doors shut," Tallman said.
Unlike some states which have laws banning sex offenders from celebrating Halloween for life, New Mexico has no such law, Barela said. That's why deputies and probation and parole officers will use Halloween to meet with sex offenders and verify their residence, he said.
After meeting with all sex offenders on probation or parole, the officers in the San Juan County operation will check other convicted sex offenders and patrol high-traffic areas where people are celebrating Halloween.
There are about 285 registered sex offenders in San Juan County who are not on probation and parole and are not incarcerated, Tallman said. Though there are no laws prohibiting all sex offenders from celebrating the holiday, Tallman said law enforcement will meet with them on Thursday to let them know police are increasing enforcement.
The operation won't affect tax payers because all law enforcement officers participating agreed to restructure their work hours to accommodate the operation, he said. The law enforcement officers working the operation are in addition to regular enforcement.
"Our goal is not to hinder the fun, it's to be there just in case someone would use this night as a chance to hurt a child," Tallman said. "Fortunately, in our community we have not had, to my knowledge, an abduction or an attempted abduction on Halloween night. But nationwide there are a few reports every year."
Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.