Proposal for a youth curfew is blasted at hearing Annapolis panel decides to reject proposed curfew.

March 05, 1991|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Evening Sun Staff

Arden Smith stood before the Rules Committee of the Annapolis City Council last night dressed in an oversized T-shirt, baggy sweat pants and tennis shoes.

He looked 16.

But Smith, an Annapolis resident, is 21. Under a proposal to impose a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on youths 17 and under, Smith's youthful looks might prompt police officers to question his right to be on the street during those hours, he said.

Smith's testimony and the testimony of several Annapolis High School students and Annapolis residents prompted the committee to reject Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' proposed curfew law.

The committee members -- aldermen Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, and M. Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, -- said they would recommend rejection of the curfew bill at the council's next meeting March 11.

The proposal would ban anyone under 17 from public places and establishments between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on week nights.

Under the proposal, police would send letters to the parents or guardians of violators.

Parents whose children broke the curfew more than once in a 12-month period would be fined $5 to $100. And, if they failed to pay the fines, they could be jailed for 15 days.

Hopkins has said he proposed the curfew to curb rowdiness downtown and violence in drug-infested neighborhoods.

Some owners of restaurants, bars and stores have complained about youths hanging out in front of their businesses and causing disturbances.

Last year, Annapolis had a record five killings, which occurred in or near its 10 housing projects, police said. This year, there has been one slaying just outside the Eastport Terrace public housing complex.

Police believe the killings were drug-related.

However, several of the 50 spectators who testified against the curfew last night said that neither the victims nor their assailants were under 17.

But Eric Avery, drug policy coordinator for Annapolis, pointed out that drug dealers often use automatic weapons and that stray bullets from such weapons often hit innocent bystanders.

"I don't like curfews, and I don't think the mayor likes them either," Avery said. "But we like injured children even less."

Annapolis High senior Stephanie Finn said she had a problem with Avery's reasoning.

"I heard what you said that a 17-year-old might get shot," said Finn, 17. "But what about me? I'll be 18 soon. Don't I count?

"And what if a tourist gets shot? OK, we want all the tourists off the street?" she asked.

Nick Kallis, a proponent of the curfew, said that even if a curfew is not imposed, something has to be done to curb the "carnival atmosphere that exists in the summer."

But Carol Gerson, a longtime Annapolis resident said she likes the "carnival atmosphere" down by the City Dock.

"The worst time I ever had is when the legislators are in town," Gerson said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. "And they're not 17."

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