Curfew urged for youths who are younger than 17 Parents could be fined for school-day and late-night violations

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

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

Democratic Dels. Marsha G. Perry of Anne Arundel and Frank S. Turner of Howard have drafted legislation that would require youths in their counties younger than 17 to be off the streets and at home by midnight Fridays and Saturdays and by 11 p.m. other days of the week -- 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 few 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," but he said it would 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.

"I don't want to be told to go home when I'm out at midnight," Bryan Schultz, 16, of Columbia said while sitting with friends at The Mall in Columbia yesterday afternoon.

"As long as you're not making too much noise and bothering the neighbors, what difference does it make?" he said.

Added Uraynab Said, 17, of Columbia: "A curfew? For what? OK, they'll have to get in all their crime before midnight.

"Is this just like a power trip for this guy?" he asked.

Mr. Turner and Ms. Perry said they believed their bill also would help reduce teen-age substance abuse and underage drinking. And they said 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 prevent 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 of the week -- unless accompanied by their parents or guardians.

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 for 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. I really don't know what the response will be in Anne Arundel County, but the idea was, let's get the bill drafted and see."

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

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker expressed concern about legal issues, which led the state's highest court to declare a Frederick curfew 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 in 1994. The number of adult arrests dropped during the same period, from 2,188 in 1994 to 2,153 in 1995.

"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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