The mayor of Grovetown, Georgia, announced that all sex offenders on probation will be called to city hall to be "overseen" for three hours on Halloween night.
Yep. Mayor Gary E. Jones said it's a "precautionary measure."
"In order to ensure the safety of our children, all sex offenders (on Probation) in the City of Grovetown (area) will be housed in the Council Chambers on Halloween night from 6pm-9pm. There are approx. 25-30 offenders and they will be overseen by the GA Dept. of Community Supervision District 10 (4 officers) and accompanied by one Grovetown Officer," Jones announced on his Facebook page Oct. 22.
It cause quite a stir.
Jones' announcement received over 100 comments, many of them questioning the legality of his decision. Many commenters also condemned him for vilifying those who've already been charged, convicted, and perhaps served time in connection with what the law considers sex-related incidents.
One commenter wrote, "Did you know you can be put on the sex offender list in Georgia for public urination? Also, if you’re going to do this, why stop at sex offenders? Why not include robbers, nonsexual assaulters, kidnappers, and murderers? This is one of those instances where an elected official is just pandering for good press. 'Tough' on crime is not always smart on crime."
A good portion of commenters, however, supported the idea and commended Jones for his action.
Another commenter added, "Awesome job Mr. Mayor ... Keep being proactive, hope you are working closely with authorities to keep are schools safe as well. Thank you and God bless."
Just hours after the mayor made his initial post, he shared a follow-up post in which he defended his decision.
"Friends I am not personally going to pick up, round up, call or going to any sex offender’s home," he wrote. "This is a joint effort with GA Community Probation Services. They are the [ones] with the authority under Special Conditions to require that offenders report. The reporting location is Grovetown City Hall. This is legal."
"[G]ood grief!" he added.
Jones' update was, naturally, flooded with further remarks — all quite similar to the ones placed on his initial posting.
So is it really legal?
If you're wondering if the move really is legal — yes, it is. According to local statutes, sex offenders can be mandated to go anywhere at any time.
The Georgia Department of Community Supervision has the legal option of requiring paroled sex offenders — especially those on probation — to check into specific locations at any time the department deems necessary.
Additionally, the only thing that appears to be new about this type of program is the viral and contagious outrage.
In 2016, DCS Assistant Commissioner Scott Maurer stressed the importance of child safety.
“This is a proactive initiative we are undertaking to assist in ensuring Georgia communities are safe for our children during Halloween," Maurer said "We are extremely thankful to all of the local law enforcement agencies across the state who are partnering with us in this endeavor."
In 2017, Director of Field Operations David Morrison echoed Maurer's 2016 sentiments.
“The Department of Community Supervision routinely conducts joint operations such as this throughout the state in collaboration with local, county, state and federal entities," Morrison said. "It is a great opportunity to join our resources to enhance public safety while ensuring offenders under our supervision are abiding by their conditions.”