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Tampa police ensure registered sex offenders avoid children on Halloween

TAMPA — Before the sun set on Halloween night, police officers and detectives all over the city went knocking on doors — and they weren't looking for candy.

More than 100 sex offenders and predators live in Tampa, and many of them are not allowed to have unsupervised contact with children, said Detective Rick Cochran of the Tampa Police Department's criminal tracking unit.

So for the third Halloween in a row, Cochran and his partner, Detective Yolanda Cox, went to the homes of sex offenders and predators throughout the city to make sure they weren't handing out candy, hanging decorations or doing anything to entice children to their doors.

In North Tampa, several offenders live together, some with as many as five to a house.

So Cochran and Cox were surprised to see all five offenders home when they arrived at Okara Street. For the most part, the men all offered their identification and assured the officers they would stay in for night, but one said he would be working.

"How do you get to work?" Cochran asked. The man said he takes his bicycle.

Cochran said it's up to probation officers to supervise what happens in the working environment.

"We don't check their jobs. Hopefully probation officers are checking to make sure they're there, and if not, we'll see if they are at home," he said.

At a house on Poinsettia Street, the two offenders living there decided to be proactive. The men put a yellow Master padlock on the 3-foot-high perimeter fence, ensuring that children wouldn't be coming to the door of the bright blue house.

Cox said they'll make several passes by the same homes and regular patrol officers will do the same until all the trick-or-treaters are off the streets.

"It's not like it used to be trick or treating," she said.

But the duo tried to keep the night as normal as possible for neighborhood children.

"That's why we do this," Cochran said. "So that (the offenders and predators) know we're out here and we'll keep coming and checking in on them."

Tampa police ensure registered sex offenders avoid children on Halloween 10/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 1, 2009 12:00am]
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