Curfew proposed for youth under 17 Parents would face fines for violations on school days, nights

November 10, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Lawmakers in Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties want to keep their suburbs quiet by creating a youth curfew zone across much of Central Maryland.

Democratic Dels. Frank S. Turner of Howard and Marsha G. Perry of Anne Arundel have drafted legislation that would require youths in their counties younger than 17 to be off the streets and in their homes by midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. other days -- or their parents could face fines.

The curfew also would be in effect during school hours.

Members of the Prince George's County Council are expected to approve similar legislation in the next couple of weeks.

Mr. Turner says the curfews would bring some peace and quiet to the three counties.

"I think it'll have some impact on the whole region," Mr. Turner said.

Youths affected by the proposal "are not going to like my bill," he said, but it will help stem juvenile crime.

Baltimore, Washington and Laurel already have curfews.

Some praise the bill as a move to address fears of rising juvenile crime in the suburbs.

But others -- particularly some youths who would be subject to the curfew -- aren't happy about it.

"A curfew? For what? OK, they'll have to get in all their crime before midnight," Uraynab Said, 17, of east Columbia's Hickory Ridge village said while sitting with friends at The Mall in Columbia yesterday afternoon.

"Is this just like a power trip for this guy?"

Added Bryan Schultz, 16, of Columbia: "I don't want to be told to go home when I'm out at midnight. As long as you're not making too much noise and bothering the neighbors, what difference does it make?"

Mr. Turner and Ms. Perry say they believe their bill also would help reduce teen-age substance abuse and underage drinking. And they say the bill's school-hours provision would help keep youths in classes.

"I think it's a preventive-type bill," Mr. Turner said. "I don't want to wait until things get out of hand."

The bill is in the draft stage. But as it is written, it would prohibit youths younger than 17 from being in a public place between midnight and 6 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. other days -- unless accompanied by their parents or guardians.

L It also would apply from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days.

The bill would exempt youths in emergency situations, on errands for parents or on interstate travel.

When youths violate the curfew, parents would be fined $50 for a first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Owners of a public place where the youths are found -- such as a restaurant -- also would be fined the same amounts.

"Violation of the curfew is not like a major crime," Ms. Perry said. "It's more: Get your business done by midnight and get home."

Officials in Howard County, where juvenile crime is on the rise, also have taken a wait-and-see attitude to the bill.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker expressed concern about legal issues, which led the state Court of Appeals to declare a curfew in Frederick unconstitutional because it was too vague.

"We are looking at it," Mr. Ecker said. Does Howard County need it? "I don't think so," he said.

Juvenile arrests in Howard during the first six months of this year totaled 563, compared with 479 last year. The number of adult arrests dropped during the same period, from 2,188 last year to 2,153 this year.

"There is a lot of frustration out there with juvenile vandalism," said state Sen. Martin G. Madden, who represents southeastern Howard County and northern Prince George's County.

"This is an idea I think deserves to be looked at. But I have to see the details before I can tell you yes or no on it," he said.

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