3 towns may revise curfew laws

July 24, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Town police chiefs and officials and town codesSun Staff Writer

New Windsor is the only one of Carroll County's eight municipalities where town leaders are battling juveniles who stay out late causing trouble. But officials in three other towns say they may revise their curfew laws so they would be prepared if problems arise.

Manchester, Sykesville and Union Bridge officials are examining their curfew laws because of their similarity to Frederick's, which Maryland's highest court ruled last month was unconstitutional.

The June 30 Court of Appeals ruling said Frederick's law was too vague about certain exceptions to the curfew. Baltimore's curfew law was almost identical, and the police chief there suspended enforcement July 7. The Baltimore City Council is revising the ordinance.

Curfew violations are not a problem in most Carroll municipalities, and the existing laws rarely need to be enforced, officials in those towns said. Westminster is the only municipality in the county that has no curfew law.

Curfews in Carroll's towns begin at either 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on weeknights and continue until 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. On weekends, curfews begin anywhere from 10 p.m. to midnight and continue until early morning. The laws apply to youths under 18.

Juveniles are exempt from curfews if they are accompanied by a parent or other adult, on an errand for a parent, going to or from a job or are involved in an emergency.

Violations are punishable by fines ranging from $5 to $500 in Carroll towns.

Manchester Mayor Elmer C. Lippy said he wants to revise the town's curfew law to be prepared in case trouble with juveniles arises. "We want to be right on the books," he said.

The June 29 disappearance of Manchester's town flag from outside Town Hall has spurred him on, he said. The flag has not been found.

"It's a slap to the town government of Manchester," Mr. Lippy said. "It must be nipped in the bud."

Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones and Sykesville Town Manager Matthew H. Candland also said they would look into revising their towns' laws.

"Fortunately, [Sykesville] has been pretty peaceful," Mr. Candland said.

Mr. Jones said curfew violations were a problem in Union Bridge about 10 years ago.

"It kind of comes and goes with the people who move in and out of town," he said. "Parents have to care what their kids are doing to keep them off the street."

In New Windsor, town residents were in an uproar after a recent rash of fires and thefts. Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. and residents blamed the crimes on juveniles. Some of the crimes have not been solved.

About 200 people -- 25 percent of the town's population -- attended a meeting July 5 to talk to police, the Carroll state's attorney and state juvenile services officials about the problem.

Maryland State Police resident troopers who patrol New Windsor have vowed to "vigorously" enforce the town's curfew, Mr. Gullo said.

Hampstead Police Chief Ken F. Russell said he has not found it necessary to enforce that town's curfew law.

"We tell the kids to go and they go," he said. "It seems a little like Nazism to go up to someone and ask, 'What are you doing?' "

The chief said that about two years ago teen-agers congregated in the parking lot at Robert's Field Shopping Center. Town police showed them the curfew law, and they complied with it, he said.

Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo said he has not seen a need for a curfew in his 28 years on the city force. If juveniles are causing trouble late at night, they are charged with such violations as disorderly conduct or destruction of property, he said.

James P. Peck, associate director for research at the Maryland Municipal League in Annapolis, said he studied curfew laws as a result of the Frederick case.

When municipal officials ask for advice, he said, he sends them TC copy of a Dallas curfew law that survived a federal court challenge.

Frederick has revised its law based on the Dallas law.

The Maryland Court of Appeals had said the Frederick curfew law was too vague because it allowed an exception for juveniles "attending a cultural, scholastic, athletic or recreational activity supervised by a bona fide organization" without specifically defining those events.

The Dallas law describes exceptions more specifically. That law says a juvenile may not be charged for a curfew violation if he or she is attending an official school, religious or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, a civic organization or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the juvenile.

In a November 1993 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said the Dallas law allowed the city to reduce juvenile crime and promote juvenile safety without violating constitutional rights.

The court said it was the city's intent to use the law as a tool to address criminal activity, not to penalize every youth found outside after curfew.

CURFEW HOURS IN CARROLL TOWNS

Hampstead: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. all days.

Manchester: 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Mount Airy: 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. all days. Juveniles may stay out until midnight if they are attending a community- or school-sponsored event of which the mayor was notified by an adult supervisor.

New Windsor: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday to Sunday.

Sykesville: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. During school holidays and summer vacation, the curfew is midnight to 6 a.m. all days.

Taneytown: 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. all days.

Union Bridge: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Westminster: No curfew.

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