Council Committee Begins Work on Curfew
Andrews opposes measure, Berliner skeptical and Rice wants to prevent racial profiling.
Proposed teen curfew legislation goes before the Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee at a Thursday morning work session, the next step for a controversial measure proposed to combat teenage violence.
The committee's chairman, Councilmember Phil Andrews, opposes the bill.
"It's not justified based on what has occurred in Montgomery County," Andrews (D-Dist. 3) said. "A curfew is only justified in an emergency situation. We don't have an emergency in Montgomery County. ... A number of council members are undecided. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to one serious but isolated gang fight in downtown Silver Spring."
County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed the bill in mid-July on behalf of the Montgomery County Police after a highly publicized gang fight in downtown Silver Spring. The measure would prohibit youth 17 years old and younger from being in any public place or establishment from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from midnight to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Abigail Burman, 17, of Silver Spring, is leading a youth group opposing the curfew.
"It is outrageous to think that the thousands of teens who have done nothing wrong should be confined to our homes, asked to give up our rights and those of our parents, when there is no evidence that this will reduce crime or victimization," she said. "Curfews are just security theater. They don't actually make us safer, but they do distract us from looking for real solutions."
Leggett (D) submitted changes late last month after receiving comments from the public. He requested that a curfew violation be considered a civil offense instead of a criminal offense. He also asked to drop a requirement for curfew violators to perform 25 hours of community service and parenting classes for parents. Under the revised bill, youth would now be allowed to attend movies, sporting events and concerts after 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekends.
"The county executive's proposal was never intended to be a final product," Montgomery Police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said. "We knew there would be changes to it."
The Public Safety Committee's work session, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, is open to the public and will be broadcast on County Cable Montgomery.
The bill has been proposed as an expedited bill, meaning passage will require six votes instead of a simple majority of five.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1), a safety committee member, is on the fence. "I am skeptical. It's too soon. I have not yet been convinced it's the appropriate way to go."
Councilmember Craig Rice (D-District 2) represents the Germantown area, where a group of teens allegedly conducted a flash mob to rob a convenience store. He favors the concept of a curfew, but would like to fine-tune the legislation to ensure there is no racial profiling.
"I am definitely on board in understanding the need of the curfew law and its importance. It's just tailoring the law to put proper protections in place. We need to continue to strengthen the law to alleviate the concerns a lot of people have expressed," Rice said.
Final action on the bill is not expected until after Oct. 17, when the council hosts its second student town hall.