Two children, a punk-rock ballerina and a zombie, bounded down the sidewalk Wednesday as a team of parole agents pulled up to a west Santa Rosa apartment complex.
The agents arrived to make a surprise visit to a 58-year-old man on parole for a child pornography conviction, who as a result is a registered sex offender.
"That is our primary concern, right there," said agent Jason Colarusso, nodding toward the children. "Their safety."
Parole officers across California headed into communities on Halloween night to visit the homes of sex offenders whose convictions involve crimes against children.
Called "Operation Boo," agents aimed to enforce special restrictions that apply to this subset of parolees on Halloween. The program began in 1994.
Parolees must be home by 5 p.m. and cannot hand out candy, put up decorations, turn on outdoor lights or answer the door for anyone but police.
"You can do nothing that indicates you are participating in the holiday," Agent Fernando Mata, out of San Francisco, said.
Santa Rosa's parole office has nine agents who each manage about 80 parolees in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties. Of those, 120 are registered sex offenders, said Kevin Savage, a Santa Rosa parole agent.
Four local agents, aided by two San Francisco officers, set out Wednesday with a plan to visit as many as a dozen homes in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Windsor. All parolees know they may get a visit.
They visit high-risk sex offenders based on a recommendation by their assigned parole officer, Mata said.
The officers spent an hour at the 58-year-old man's home. They searched the apartment, his van and his roommate's sedan.
Nearby, neighbors stood in open doors and watched the agents work. Sharon Rogers, 54, said she found her neighbor on the state's sex-offender registry and alerted those living nearby with children.
"He doesn't seem to bother anybody," Rogers said.
Next was the home of a 33-year-old man who lives on a relative's property on Laughlin Road near the airport.
The man was on parole for a conviction that included lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14, according to the state's sex-offender database.
The light was off at the single-story house on a rural acreage with grapevines. The agents searched the home and walked around the property. Savage said the man appeared to be complying with all terms of his probation. The agents left after about a half hour.
"He said he expected us," said Savage. "But not in such great numbers."
Agents hope parolees expect a visit and therefore are more likely to follow the law, he said.
In 2011, agents arrested 118 of the 2,095 sex-offender parolees visited on Halloween night across the state. They were arrested on a range of parole violations, including possession of weapons, drugs and child pornography, according to the department of corrections and rehabilitation.
In Santa Rosa, the agents then interrupted dinner at a Corby Avenue home where a 22-year-old man lives with his grandparents. The man, whose conviction involved having sex with a minor, is studying to be a cook and has a lot of family support, Savage said.
"The public needs to know these people are supervised. We are doing our jobs," Mata said.