HELENA – You likely have your kids’ costumes ready for Halloween and you’ve probably stocked up on candy.
But law enforcement officials in Montana are also encouraging parents to take safety precautions before Halloween.
The Department of Justice recommends parents check out the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry online.
You can search the mapping feature for specific zip codes or neighborhoods, and you can also search for offenders by name or type of offense.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says the website is a smart way to protect your kids, but there are other steps to take.
According to the sheriff, law enforcement officers check in with violent and sexual offenders throughout the year. In Montana, sexual and violent offenders are not required to turn off their lights or post signs in their yards on Halloween.
Sheriff Dutton says if a house has its curtains drawn and the lights out, it’s best to go somewhere else. He also advises trick-or-treaters to stick to neighborhoods they know.
“You should be with your children when you go out trick-or-treating,” said Sheriff Dutton. “Just be responsible for them. You don’t have to go up to the door, but you need to be within eyesight or at least hearing if maybe something might go wrong. The opportunity for someone to commit a crime is there. Don’t give them that chance.”
Sheriff Dutton says his office is especially concerned about kids’ visibility while trick or treating.
Make sure their costumes are reflective, he says, or they have flashlights or glow sticks. If you’re driving, slow down and keep an eye out.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children under the age of 12 shouldn’t trick-or-treat without parental supervision.
Sheriff Dutton also recommends checking your kids’ candy before they eat it.