Stranger danger: What you need to know to keep your family safe this Halloween

Stranger danger: What you need to know to keep your family safe this Halloween

PINE BELT (WDAM) - As you prepare for a night of trick or treating, remember you may not know the home you are approaching, and an opening door could be the home of a sex offender.

"As a mother, I always worry about the safety of our children in the neighborhood, especially when they are trick-or-treating," one mother said.

Halloween is known for ghost and goblins out on the prowl. That's why it's important you take precautions and keep your loved ones safe during this festive season.

"I believe it is always important for young children to stay with an adult while they trick or treat," one woman said.

As the moon is seen above rooftops, parents and guardians lead the way for trick-or-treaters to go door to door hoping to leave a little sweeter than they came. The Hattiesburg Police Department is on your side making it their top priority to create a safe environment.

"On Halloween we have the perception there are creepy crawlers that are out in the neighborhood." Myers-Mitchell said. "We just want you to know that sometimes there may be someone, maybe a registered sex offender or someone that has a felony background that may be out that night."

Myers-Mitchell said protecting children from harm can start before the night begins.

"Mississippi has a Mississippi state sex offender registry that's online," Myers-Mitchell said. "You can go online and see where the sex offenders are that are in your community and where they are staying."

Click here to visit the website. The process is simple, once you log onto the website, click geographical search. Then you are able to type in your zip code, the county you live in or an exact address to see where the sex offenders live.

"If you live in a neighborhood where there is a registered sex offender, just be extra cautious on that night and keep a watch on your children," Myers-Mitchell said.

Although it may seem like a high risk time, there are no laws in our state forcing sex offenders to leave from their home during a night like Halloween. They have the right to participate in Halloween activities such as handing out candy, even though it's not recommended. It's all about safety. There are specific tips you can follow to help ensure a violent free night. It begins with paying attention to your surroundings.

"Make sure they wear clothing that has some type of reflective on them, especially if they are going to be walking they are pedestrians," Myers-Mitchell said. "We want to make sure they stay in a group, if they allow their kids to go trick-or-treating alone they need to make sure they have the route already planned out before they set out."

If you choose to let your kids go alone, make sure they have a cell phone or some type of device where they can get in touch with you.
 
"We want to make sure they are going to a familiar neighborhood and they know the people in the neighborhood," Myers-Mitchell said.

"I really can't stress enough how important it is for all children to stay alert and safe during this Halloween season," a concerned mother added.

According to the Mississippi Sex Offender Registry, here's how many sex offender are in each county:

Covington -- 44
Forrest -- 205
Lamar -- 91
Jasper --40
Jones-- 112
Marion -- 77
Perry -- 39
Wayne -- 40