DOBSON — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office has once again successfully staged Operation Silent Night for Halloween.
Sheriff Graham Atkinson explained silent night is a yearly effort to ensure compliance from registered sex offenders on a night when many children are out and about in the community. He said each Halloween, deputies with his office check in on registered sex offenders living in the county to make sure they are abiding by their sentence requirements.
Atkinson reported the office had 78 offenders in the county to check up on. Officers held a briefing Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the sheriff’s office in Dobson. Atkinson said the operation began in 2005 when he was a captain of detectives. At that time, the sex offender registry was new but local law enforcement officials knew the responsibility of keeping the registry information current would be mandated by the legislature.
“Before the registry we hand no way to pinpoint who and where these offenders were. Now we do. Besides, everybody should feel special at holidays, so we feel our registered sex offenders should feel special at Halloween, too,” said Atkinson.
He said Halloween is one night of the year where children often visit areas they are not familiar with, sometimes with less parental supervision than they normally have. Officers met in the briefing room and received their packets of information to be verified that evening sorted geographically before beginning their rounds.
“Most every year, everybody has been cooperating,” continued Atkinson. “All we are really doing is what is prescribed by statute. This is a good night to verify this information. Our job is to make sure kids can go out on Halloween safely. This is pretty much a volunteer list after all. They are responsible for being sure the information is correct and up to date and we will carry out our obligation to maintain our registry.”
He said most on the registry had tried to discourage trick-or-treaters from coming to their houses by turning porch lights off or blocking the driveway. He predicted that the information would all be verified by 8:30 p.m. He said 20 officers in addition to the normal shift would be used for the operation. Many of the officers participating in the operation stayed out afterwards to keep a watch out for holiday mischief.
“It’s been amazing how our issues at Halloween have decreased since we started doing this,” said Atkinson. He said members of the U.S. Marshal Service also help with the project. Atkinson said that on previous operations federal charges have come from verifying the registry.
Additionally, officers from towns and cities, pair up with Operation Silent Night deputies as well. After the verification process, officers also will check subdivisions frequented by trick-or-treaters and around schools.
“We are lucky to have this kind of relationship with the marshals,” said Atkinson. “They go way out of their way to help us.”
Atkinson said occasionally the office conducts surprise visits to sex offenders’ residences so they are all well aware of the annual Halloween check-up.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.