ANTELOPE VALLEY – Dozens of parole agents fanned out across the Antelope Valley Wednesday night as part of “Operation Boo,” a safety initiative aimed at protecting young trick-or-treaters from sexual predators on Halloween.
“This is a night where children are out and about, they’re knocking on doors, they’re introduced to strangers, they’re easy prey for somebody that’s looking to hurt them,” said Jackie Waltman, Administrator for CDCR’s Antelope Valley Parole Office. “That’s why it’s so important that we don’t allow them [sex offenders] to have anything that would lure a child to their house.”
Waltman said local sex-offender parolees, who were convicted of child-related offenses, had to sign forms acknowledging that they were aware of special Halloween restrictions, including:
- A 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew during which parolees must remain indoors;
- No exterior lights on at their homes (to discourage children from approaching);
- No offering of Halloween candy and no Halloween decorations;
- Sex-offender parolees can open the door only to respond to law enforcement during curfew hours.
Starting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, six teams of agents hit 55 addresses across the Antelope Valley to ensure that sex-offenders were complying with the special Halloween conditions of parole.
Team 3 made seven stops in Lancaster to various addresses, including a motel, a junk yard, a trailer park, apartments and homes.
The first stop was the Bon Air Motel on Sierra Highway to check on three registered sex offenders. The men were escorted from their rooms, handcuffed behind their backs, and made to face the wall as officers searched their belongings for toys, pictures, decorations or any other items that might lure children.
“We’re not doing the big time search, we just don’t have enough time,” said supervising parole agent Bryan Frazier. “We’re just trying to make sure there are no kids here and no Halloween going on.”
On the second stop, to a junkyard on Division Street, officers used flashlights to search dozens of junk cars.
“I know you don’t have any control over what’s in these cars, but we’ve got to check them,” Agent Miriam Brown told the sex-offender.
The man, who was bunking in the junkyard’s sales office, said he had just two months left of parole on his conviction involving a 14-year-old girl.
The search turned up a teddy bear, which the man said was left behind by a customer.
“If it was stashed in his personal property, like his bag or his clothes, then we would probably take him in, but it looks like it’s just a customer discard,” Frazier said. “There’s no Halloween going on here.”
Agents suspected something was going on at a later stop at an apartment complex on 18th Street East and Avenue J-4 in Lancaster.
The registered sex offender, who was convicted for prostitution of a minor, spoke about his case as agents searched his home.
“They didn’t understand the relationship between me and her, and they thought it was a solicitation or something like that,” the man said, adding that the girl was 17.
Agents shined a flashlight in the man’s eyes and questioned him about using drugs.
“Why are your eyes so red? I could barely see any white,” one agent said. “I could bet that you smoked some weed.”
The man denied smoking marijuana and was ordered to go into the Antelope Valley Parole Office Thursday for a drug test. Agents also searched the man’s car for drugs, but none were found.
Team 3’s searches ended on 25th Street East in Lancaster, where agents searched the two-story home of a man who said he was convicted for sexually abusing his 13-year-old stepdaughter.
Officers obtained the man’s password, and combed through his laptop for child pornography. Nothing was found.
Around 9 p.m., all six teams concluded Operation Boo in the Antelope Valley. The operation netted three arrests, Waltman said.
Richard Stine, 38, was arrested for being under the influence of alcohol and for having children’s toys.
Stine’s past convictions include rape by force or fear and sexual battery, according to the Megan’s Law website.
Joseph Britt, 62, was arrested after agents found pornography and children’s toys at his Lancaster residence. Britt was released in 2011 after serving time for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 or 15, according to the Megan’s Law website.
Russell Pence, 43, was also arrested Wednesday night after agents reportedly found sex toys at his residence. Pence, who was previously convicted for annoying or molesting a child under 18, was not listed on the Megan’s Law website. (However, Pence’s photo is listed on a private sex offender website. View it here)
Operation Boo in the Antelope Valley was conducted by parole agents from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Parole Region III: Division of Adult Parole Operations, with assistance from the prison’s Crisis Emergency Response Team and K-9 Units.
UPDATED: Operation Boo nets 85 arrests statewide
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) parole agents contacted 1703 sex-offender parolees during compliance checks as part of the 19th annual Operation Boo Child Safety Project on Halloween night 2012.
According to statewide statistics released Thursday:
- 85 were arrested,
- New charges were filed against five of the sex-offender parolees contacted,
- Five parolees at large were arrested,
- Two parolees were found with child pornography,
- Seven weapons were confiscated, and
- 17 parolees were found with narcotics.
On a regional basis:
- Region 1 (which includes Northern and Central Inland counties and extends south to Kern County) conducted 218 searches and arrested 16 sex-offender parolees, including one parolee-at-large.
- Region 2 (which includes the Central Coast and the Bay Area counties) conducted 252 searches and arrested 16 sex-offender parolees, including three parolees-at-large.
- Region 3 (which includes the greater Los Angeles area) conducted 358 searches and arrested 16 parolees, including one parolee-at-large.
- Region 4 (which includes San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial Counties,) conducted 875 searches and arrested 37.