Make trick-or-treating safer this year

Published: Oct. 28, 2011 at 2:18 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2011 at 5:11 PM CDT
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NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - Trick-or-treating on Halloween is the most dangerous time of year for kids.

While there are many things to look out for, police say knowing who's doors your children will be knocking on is vital. But there is a technology that can help protect your children from a person you don't want answering the door.

It's not the scary costumes or haunted houses you should fear. It's your child's safety as they hit the neighborhood for candy on Halloween.

Victoria Lucio, a mother of four, is worried about a number of things, but her biggest fear is a dangerous sex offender opening the door for her kids.

She says, "It's a scary thought to think they live so close to you and that something could happen to your children."

You may think you know your neighbors, but the number of sex offenders in Amarillo could surprise you.

There are more than 600 in Potter and Randall counties combined.

Your child could easily meet one while they are trick-or-treating because many sex offenders are allowed to hand out candy.

Lt. Martin Birkenfeld with APD Crimes Against Persons says, "If they are off probation or parole, there is no restriction saying they can't. That's why it's important for parents to know who is living in their neighborhood."

Which is why Lucio is turning to her smart phone to help her choose which houses her kids will visit and which ones they will avoid.

She is using an application called "Offender Search," that links up to the sex offender registry and uses GPS satellites to determine her location.

Lucio says, "It just helps us to know not to go to that house even though I do go with my kids. It helps us more to know who is in our neighborhood and who to look out for and for our kids to be more aware of their surroundings."

We checked to see just how accurate this technology is by comparing the results of the phone application to those on the Texas DPS Sex Offender Registry. We chose streets in Amarillo at random and compared the data. Everything checked out, but police say not to rely just on the phone app.

Lt. Birkenfeld explains, "We've looked at some of the apps and they are pretty reliable, but they have information that is out-of-date somewhat and there are also persons on the applications that aren't on the sex offender web site."

Law enforcement says the most accurate source is the Texas DPS Sex Offender Registry, so you should use both resources.

There are a number of free and inexpensive applications that locate sex offenders for all types of smart phones.