HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Before your kids go trick or treating Saturday, there's a simple resource you should know is available. It shares where sex offenders live in neighborhoods, and it only takes a few seconds to check.
"It's usually chaos out there when it's dark and all the kids are running around wearing costumes," Kimball Lewis said.
Parenting expert Kimball Lewis recommends these simple steps on Halloween: "If they go out on their own make sure they go to neighborhoods that you have vetted, have your child plan a route ahead of time and stay in well lit areas and always stick together with their friends."
He says setting safety expectations with your kids is key.
"You have to prepare your kids and tell them what to do to keep themselves safe. Never share personal information with strangers, and never walk into anyone's home," Lewis said.
With more than 26,000 registered sex offenders in Florida, about 2,000 live in Hillsborough County and almost 1,800 in Pinellas County. There's a simple tool all parents can check to see where they live.
Go to the FDLE Sexual Offenders and Predators search, search a specific name or an address, and it will show you who is in that radius. It will share their address and photograph.
"The most important thing is to stay with your group, safety in numbers," Lewis said.
By law, registered sex offenders are banned from participating in Halloween activities, they must leave their porch lights off, close their blinds and have no décor that could attract children. This week, the Hillsborough County Sheriff went to a few sex offenders' houses to remind them of those rules.
As for safety, Lewis says the most important thing is to stay with a group and not get separated. He also recommends kids check in via phone call or text with parents during the evening as well.
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