Hurdles abound in city juvenile curfew proposal


Although a city curfew could reduce the number of crimes committed, it can’t logically be implemented without having a juvenile center to hold the teens.

That point was made when the Salisbury City Council met with Police Chief Barbara Duncan at a work session this week to discuss implementing the proposed curfew.

City Council President Jake Day said both the cost of not having the curfew and of enforcing it would be significant. Crime statistics indicate it’s necessary, but there is nowhere to hold juveniles who break curfew, he said.

Duncan said officials at the Department of Juvenile Services are looking into building a center, but there hasn’t yet been a financial analysis.

Without a center, she said, juveniles would be held at police headquarters until a parent or other adult was located. A new employee would have to be hired to monitor juveniles in custody.

“We have to figure out a path, an affordable, sustainable path, to do this,” Day said.

He suggested council members plan a future meeting with Department of Juvenile Services and they agreed.

The proposed curfew would prohibit minors 14 to 17 from being out from midnight the Friday preceding Memorial Day to the last Sunday of August from 11 p.m. to 6 am. the following day.

The rest of the year, they could not be outside from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, from 11 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday or between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. other days of the week.

Nobody younger than 16 could be out from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., during school.

Exceptions would include having written permission from school authorities, being with a parent or traveling to and from school.

If the curfew was broken, the parents would be charged with a municipal infraction, be required to attend counseling sessions, be fined up to  $500  or be ordered to complete community service.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell said there’s a section in the  ordinance stating a child can’t be held longer than 24 hours and asked where the child would be taken if a parent can’t be found. Duncan said social services would become involved.

Duncan said it’s important to note the city has a lot of “tremendous kids” who are goal-oriented and driven. “To have them on board in this endeavor is going to be hugely beneficial,” she said.

Day said city officials owe the conversation about a curfew to neighborhoods, in an effort to curb victimization of juveniles and  crimes committed by them, but worried the police department “would be dramatically affected by, for lack of a better term, having to babysit.”

“I feel this would be a very, very painful policy to enforce for our police department,” he said.

Duncan said the curfew could begin without a holding facility  because it would begin to prevent crimes. If it’s approved, a police officer would be taken off street patrol and assigned to enforce it.

If an announcement of a curfew is strong and citywide, “it will go a long way and we should see decreases in arrests almost immediately,” Duncan said.

“I’d like to see that.”

She stressed the importance of teens being off the streets at night “so they can stop being suspects and they can stop being victims because that is extremely important,” she said.

Day said if the city makes sure juveniles are at home late at night, parents will be expected to “be an active and positive part in their lives, although that is not the case in many homes throughout the country.”

Duncan explained crimes commonly committed by juveniles include burglary, bicycle thefts, assault and robbery. “It is a significant number when you’re talking about juveniles in total,” she said.

She said in a year in Salisbury, about 2,000 part-one – or the most serious — crimes are committed.  Reducing that number by the 67 attributed to juvenile misbehavior, according to statistics she provided, “would make a significant impact in the neighborhoods where these crimes are taking place.”

The chief said statistics show severity in crime slows when juveniles return home in the afternoon, then spikes later in the evening.

Councilwoman Shanie Shields asked where the juveniles’ parents are when they are out late. Allowing a 5-year-old, even a 10-year-old, on the sidewalk at night, “is a crime,” she said.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said, calling for a curfew to protect children who are unsupervised well into the night.

Duncan said parents often tell police they weren’t aware the child had gone out, and complain they can’t keep their children inside.

A curfew would give parents extra authority, to say “look, it’s not just me, it’s the law now,” Duncan said.


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