There are hundreds of registered sex offenders on the Central Coast. As Halloween approaches, police have a few recommendations for parents.
“We currently have over 200 registered sex offenders living in the city limits,” said lieutenant Paul Van Meel.
“That’s a lot,” Santa Maria resident Jonathan Guild said.
“I think it’s surprising that we have so many,” said resident Thomas Arellano.
“We are the largest city in the county and that kinda reflects the number of sex offenders we have,” said Van Meel.
Lt. Van Meel says Santa Maria Police is constantly checking up on registered sex offenders, especially those on parole.
“[We] do searches of them, their vehicles, their residences, to make sure there’s nothing you shouldn’t have,” said Van Meel.
As the little ones get ready to trick or treat, police advise parents to watch out for threats. A good place to start is the website Megan’s Law, where you can search for registered sex offenders in your city.
“We look on the website, and then we check in our area, and then it shows who’s located in our area and hope that it’s accurate so we have a good idea of where these people are, and where we keep our kids away from,” said Santa Maria parent Darren King.
In San Luis Obispo County, District Attorney Dan Dow reports the county has a high compliance rate.
“A very high majority of our sex offenders do register regularly,” said Dow.
Dow says between January and July 2019, his office has prosecuted 15 sex offenders for non-compliance.
“That’s out of around 700 people that should be registered in the county,” he said.
However, the D.A adds some people try to hide where they really live.
“They’ll register as a homeless person, which gives them a little more anonymity.”
As police remind parents to be aware of who’s in their community, they also say it’s important to have a talk with children about what kind of signs to look out for.
“Parents have to have continual talks with children about what kind of behavior is acceptable. What kind of interaction with people is acceptable,” said Van Meel.
Van Meel adds that the majority of sex offenses are not committed by strangers, but by someone the victim may know or trust.