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Washington County sex offenders required to go to meeting tonight

October 31, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

About 50 registered sexual offenders in Washington County are required to attend a four-hour meeting Halloween night at an undisclosed location.

During the meeting, offenders will be able to ask questions about state law, and agents from the Division of Parole and Probation will review sex offender laws and conditions of supervision, a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman said.

Photographs of the offenders will be taken during the meeting, department spokesman Mark Vernarelli said.

Hagerstown is one of four jurisdictions in the state that requires such meetings.

Today's meeting will be like any other mandatory meeting, and failure to attend could result in an offender violating probation, Vernarelli said.

Hagerstown police officers will stop by Friday's meeting, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said Thursday.

Having officers at the meeting shows that police and the Division of Parole and Probation work together and gives officers a chance to put faces to the names of the offenders, Smith said.

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The meeting is also "good for the parents' peace of mind," Smith said. "People who they would have to be concerned about on that date (are) occupied by Parole and Probation."

Smith said he was in favor of the annual Halloween meeting for sex offenders.

"Our Parole and Probation really does try to put public safety first," he said.

Extra patrols will be in place Friday night to deal with any other issues, Smith said.

Offenders unable to attend today's meeting because of a work commitment or documented health issue will receive home visits from officials.

Supervised violent and child sex offenders throughout the state received a letter from Parole and Probation this month. The letter instructed the offenders to remain in their homes from 6 p.m. Halloween night until the next morning and to place "No Candy" signs on their doors. They were told not to open their doors to trick-or-treaters.

"The Division of Parole and Probation believes that the Halloween season provides a rare opportunity for you to demonstrate to your neighbors that you are making a sincere effort to change the direction of your life. By making a commitment to refrain from participating in Halloween activities, you will enable the children and parents in your neighborhood to enjoy the holiday without undue anxiety," the letter says.

Pumpkin signs with the phrase "No Candy at this Residence" were sent to those offenders.

Schools across the state and businesses that sell Halloween-related items received pamphlets featuring Halloween safety tips for children and their parents from the Division of Parole and Probation.

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