On Halloween, parole agents will monitor sex offenders statewide to ensure they don't participate. (Source: CDCR)

No candy, no decorations, no porch light and definitely no trick-or-treaters.

On Halloween night, these things spell parole violation for some registered sex offenders in California, thanks to “Operation Boo,” a special one-night-only set of rules enforced by parole that includes a dawn-to-dusk curfew and prohibition against handing out candy.

But in San Francisco, because 67 of the 72 registered sex offenders on parole are homeless, Operation Boo calls in a different set of rules, according to Fred Bridgewater, the Region II assistant public information officer for the California Division of Adult Parole.

Transient offenders must report to the Northern California Service League in SoMA from 5 to 10 p.m. on Halloween, after which the agency expects most children will be back at home. Year round, they must wear GPS tracking devices and report to their parole agents weekly to update them on their whereabouts.

In addition to those on parole, there are 58 registered sex offenders in the Mission District’s 94110 zip code who have completed their parole terms and therefore are not covered by Operation Boo.

Thirty-eight of those offenders were convicted of sexual crimes with children 15 and younger, according to the Megan’s Law website.

Though all sex offenders must register their addresses at least once a year for life, only offenders considered high risk are subject to school-related residency restrictions once they have completed their three-year parole term. Those convicted of child molestation or child annoyance cannot live within a half a mile of a school, and sexually violent predators cannot live within a quarter of a mile.

Bridgewater said that although Operation Boo has been in existence for 17 years, “there are no historical problems that gave rise to this operation.” Sergeant Wilfred Williams, public information officer for the San Francisco Police Department, said he does not remember any major incidents involving sex offenders and children on Halloween during his 17-year tenure with the department.

The high number of transient parolees in San Francisco reflects the difficulty of paroled sex offenders complying with the 2006 Proposition 83 that prohibits them from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, regardless of whether their offense involved children.

“When you apply that to the city and county of San Francisco, virtually the whole city is not compliant,” said Bridgewater. The number of transient sex offenders rose dramatically soon after the 2006 law was implemented, according to data from the California Sex Offender Management Board.

The difficulty for sex offenders convicted in San Francisco and paroled after Proposition 83 was passed is that they serve their parole terms in the county where they committed their crime unless they are granted a parole region transfer–which is seldom successful.

This has left San Francisco sex offenders with few options and an increasing number live in encampments, under bridges or in parks. Only San Diego is as difficult a city for sex offenders to find housing, Bridgewater said.

Two Bay Area civil rights attorneys are challenging the legality of the residency restrictions imposed by Proposition 83. They are representing four parolees—including one who lives in San Francisco—in cases that will be argued in front of the California Supreme Court on Nov. 3.

“We want the court to rule that this law violates the state constitution and shouldn’t be enforced,” said Ernest Galvan, one of the attorneys.

The 17-member California Sex Offender Management Board—representing both state and non-governmental agencies—issued a report in January 2009 recommending “that the California State Legislature, Governor, and local governments reconsider residency restrictions to create an offender housing and supervision solution that balances three essential concerns,” including public safety, fair share and local control.

Full disclosure: Vanessa Carr worked as a paralegal in Ernest Galvan’s law firm from 2005-2006.

Follow Us

Vanessa loves reporting for Mission Loc@l because of the many ways it deepens her connection to the Mission District, which she has called home for the past four years.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The Registries for sex offenders need to be returned to their original intent to list only
    the most dangerous, un-treatable and repeat offenders. These current restriction are unconstitutional. they have to charge the damn ankel monitor which leaves scares and bruises but are not allowed to live in a home. If the monitor is not charged then it will be a violation. This is uncivil.

  2. How much taxpayer money was used in this overtime bonanza for law enforcement? How many law breakers did they actually nab? Looks like law enforcement has found a cash cow and their miking it!

  3. The problem with all this talk about sex offenders. Is that we forgot that America was founded by sex offenders. What is a Mexican,mulatto,creole? These are people that didn’t exit prior to the Europeans arriving.

    Should we just beleive that the natives laid down with these oppressors,because they were so irresistible?


  4. I sympathize with folks worried about their children, and don’t really mind being home tonight with the porchlight out. I feel considerable remorse for an incident in my past, and I don’t want your children, but let me be clear (and I think this goes for almost anyone): Signs on the front door, GPS transmitters on my leg, living ten miles from the nearest park or school does not matter. If I wanted your children, I would have them. I know that’s a scary thought, and as a father, it scares me too. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. Child abduction is not difficult, and it happens far more frequently than we would like. Locking up every former sex offender for halloween night or forever will not stop it, nor would it even slow it down much.

    Sometimes we just have to live in spite of our fears and go forward with the knowledge that we cannot prevent all possibilities that could harm our children. We do the best we can to educate and prepare them and then hope they will survive and prosper. Abductions, drunk drivers, suicide and unfit parents all kill far more children every year than sex offenders. You cannot bear children risk-free. No matter, I will be at home alone tonight with my porch light out. Happy Halloween

  5. I agree with those who have posted comments.
    While trying to protect children, we have destroyed thousands. Collateral damage. Families ripped apart over consensual cases, where children are forbidden from any parent contact needs to be addressed. Especially in states where the age of consent is 18. The only ones at risk on Halloween are the SO’s and their families. Thanks to the media hype and hysteria, it’s only a matter of time before some vigilante follows through with their threats against them. We live in fear everyday.

  6. In the history of this country, there has been one documented case of where a child was harmed on this night, sexually, and it was not by a registered sex offender.

  7. Sex Offenders Not a Halloween Scare

    ” Beware the Halloween bogeyman! by: Karen Franklin, Ph.D.

    We are manufacturing sex offenders by including people who are no threat to anyone and who have harmed no one. We’ve sparked undue paranoia and made it more difficult to identify the real sex offenders, the ones people should actually be concerned with

    I believe the REAL Boogyman are the news media and politicians who use fear mongering for ratings and votes.

    Happy Halloween. Watch the traffic.”