Last year, Butts County Sheriff Gary Long raised eyebrows when he directed his deputies to place "Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!!" signs at the homes of more than 200 sex offenders who were registered in the county between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2. In a Facebook post on Monday, Long explained that he had done so because a local Halloween festival had been cancelled and resulted in more door-to-door trick-or-treaters.
"My office took precautions and placed signs indicating 'No Trick or Treat' at each registered sex offender's residence in the County," he wrote. "This was done to ensure the safety of our children."
Photo: Butts County Sheriff's Office
Though Long had planned to do it again this year, three registered sex offenders have filed a lawsuit, claiming that the sheriff's signs violate their rights to free speech and privacy.
"I'm just not sure that this kind of action makes your kids any safer," Mark Yurachek, the lawyer for the petitioners, said. "It just makes your constitutional rights less safe."
In an update to his post, Long said that he would argue those claims on Thursday.
"This Thursday, we will argue to the Federal Court that we are protecting our children and following Georgia Law by placing these signs," the sheriff wrote. "Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday, I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community."
As of Thursday, Long's post has received nearly 1,000 reactions and over 700 comments.
"Thank you Sheriff Gary Long!" one person wrote. "I love that the signs are put up! And the sex offenders should have no rights, this is to protect our children and our grandchildren from predators. I am praying."
Still, the Georgia State Sex Offender Registry does not require sex offenders to post signs nor does it allow law enforcement to do so on their behalf, Yurachek said.
"They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff," the lawyer said.