Mixed feelings over proposed MoCo curfew
It all started the weekend of July 4. It was a calm Friday night in Silver Spring’s town center. Couples walked hand-in-hand, making their way to dinner or a movie. It wasn’t until later in the evening, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger reported at Tuesday’s public hearing, that a group of at least 70 juveniles and teens congregated for a late night gang fight.
The fight, which was broken up by police, resulted in the stabbing of a 17-year-old girl. The reasoning for the fight’s location, Manger said one of the teens reported, was because Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. have curfews.
The incident, along with other gang-related juvenile crime in the area has given rise to Expedited Bill 25-11, which, if passed, will limit the night-time hours minors are allowed to be out in public.
Juveniles aged 17 and under will be restricted by the curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights, and midnight to 5 a.m. on weekend nights. If caught in public, barring certain exceptions, juveniles will be escorted to the nearest police station where parents will be notified and required to escort their teen home.
Both sides of the proposal, those in favor of locking kids inside the house, and those opposed to discriminatory legislation, vociferously argued their side at Tuesday’s meeting. Manger, and County government members spoke for the proposal, noting a six percent increase in juvenile arrests in recent years and the thousand-plus gang members in Montgomery County.
Manger also noted a P.G. County study conducted by the police department on the effect of curfew, and said thought the curfew is not big crime-fighting solution, it is a tool to be used.
Other individual speakers took more of a middle-ground, noting that this bill will not fly, as is, without well thought-out amendments such as a sports and entertainment clause which would allow minors to attend late-night movies or events (recall Harry Potter’s many midnight showings).
Woody Brosnan, the Vice President of Safe Silver Spring, questioned if gang members would abide by the curfew.
Though Manger wants “good kids to be able to engage in healthy activities,” the proposed curfew will likely only limit the good kids who choose to abide by the curfew’s restrictions.
Abigal Burman, creator of the social networking-driven opposition group “Stand Up to the MoCo Youth Curfew,” fiercely argued against the proposal, citing several studies that show curfews don’t reduce crime. Burman also said that this curfew would “fracture the relationship between law enforcement and kids.”
Though both sides exhaustively drilled in their point, it’s is still anyone’s guess as to where the vote will fall at September 2’s hearing. And knowing this county, err this country’s ongoing necessity to postpone important legislative decisions, a final outcome may not even be reached by early September.
That being said, you know where we stand on this issue: Curfews should be left up to the parents.
— Patrick J. Hoover, Esq.