Arundel group eyes curfew for those younger than 17

Residents believe late-night restrictions would ease mischief

January 08, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A group of Anne Arundel County residents is asking the County Council to create a curfew for people younger than age 17 that it believes would solve nuisance problems in neighborhoods.

A curfew of midnight Friday and Saturday nights and 11 p.m. other nights has been requested by members of the county's Western District Police Community Relations Council. Under the proposal - based on the curfew law in Laurel City - it also would be illegal for children to be in public places when school is in session.

"We're trying to do something to help the community by giving police officers another tool," said Mary Cooper, a community council member who has lived in the Russett neighborhood for nearly a decade. Dave Daughters, community relations council president, said the group studied curfews in other cities for several years. He said nearly 88 percent of 222 west county residents responding to a survey last year supported the idea of allowing police to remove children from corners and streets late at night.

Under current law, police can stop juveniles only if they are disturbing the peace, blocking sidewalks or committing a criminal act.

But the proposal, scheduled to be addressed at the County Council's work session today, could face opposition.

The penalties are one aspect of the proposed curfew that the state American Civil Liberties Union finds troubling, said spokesman Dwight H. Sullivan. Youths out after the appointed hour could face a misdemeanor violation, and parents also could be subject to penalties, including a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

"We don't hold parents responsible for a kid who commits assault or battery ... or some other crime," he said. "It's not a good policy and interferes with the rights of children and parents.

"It punishes the good kids to try to deter the bad kids who are least likely to obey the curfew in the first place," Sullivan said.

Other curfews considered for the county have run into opposition. In 1995, state delegates representing Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George's counties proposed a youth curfew that would have covered much of Central Maryland.

The sponsors abandoned the legislation, noting concerns about violating constitutional rights and about the potential for police to selectively enforce the law in minority neighborhoods.

Although courts struck down curfews in places such as Washington and Frederick, Prince George's County and Baltimore City have juvenile curfews.

But in Anne Arundel, Cooper said, "I think most young people won't even be affected by this."

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