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Police & Fire

Megan's Law Helps Keep Westchester Kids From Sex Offenders On Halloween

Megan's Law is named after Megan Kanka, who was raped, beaten and strangled by a sexual offender in 1994.
Megan's Law is named after Megan Kanka, who was raped, beaten and strangled by a sexual offender in 1994. Photo Credit:

While the little ones are getting ready to hit the streets dressed in their spooky grab, law enforcement officials are working behind the scenes to make sure children are safe from sexual offenders.

But parents can be proactive and check their neighborhoods themselves under Megan's Law, which allows them to search their state's sexual offender database.

Named after Megan Kanka, a Hamilton Township, N.J., 7-year-old child who was raped, beaten and strangled to death on July 29, 1994 by a sexual offender, the Federal law requires law enforcement to notify the public when registered sexual offenders move into an area.

Before Megan's Law, which was spearheaded by her parents, sexual offenders were only required to register with local law enforcement when they moved into an area. Under Megan's Law they are required to register with police, notify them when they move and to register where they are employed.

Under New York law, anyone has the ability to check their neighborhood for sexual offenders through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. 

It's something Megan's parents have said publicly many times they wish they had known before the little girl was lured into the home of sexual offender Jesse Timmendequas with the promise of a seeing a puppy.

Timmendequas, who had two convictions of sex crimes against children, along with two other sex offenders, lived directly across the street from Megan's family. No one in the neighborhood had any idea the three men were sex offenders.

In Rockland County, officials take it one step further for Gate Night, the night before Halloween, and on Halloween, said Kathleen Tower-Bernstein, director of the Rockland County Department of Probation.

All sex offenders followed by the probation departments are given a contract for those two days, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, that includes curfews, Tower-Bernstein said.

They are also prohibited from engaging in any Halloween-related activities, including opening doors for trick-or-treaters or accompanying children to trick-or-treat, she added.

"Anyone found to be in violation of their contract will be returned to court for further action," Tower-Bernstein said.

Dutchess County Probation also checks on their sexual offenders for Halloween. Like Rockland, offenders are required to sign a contract that they will not put up any decorations, hand out candy or turn on their lights from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., said Dutchess County Probation Director Mary Ellen Still.

Probation officers working in teams of two will check on the offenders throughout the county, she added. 

"This not only helps keep the neighborhood safe, it also helps the offenders learn new behaviors in an effort to prevent recidivism," Still said. 

Westchester County probation officials take a little different tack by having all offenders report to the courthouse from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. to attend an educational program that includes a presentation by a survivor, said Rob Grady, supervisor of Westchester County Probation.

The office has been conducting the event for 15 years and said it has been very successful.

"It offers two important components," Grady said. "First by offering educational and survivor stories they learn about empathy, something many offenders are lacking and it takes them off the streets."

To check a neighborhood, visit the site, click on sexual offenders, then follow the directions of either entering a name, county or just a zip code. A list of sexual offenders, what they were convicted of and their addresses will be provided along with their photos. 

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