- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Most Montgomery County teenagers likely were soaking up the sun Tuesday, enjoying the last few weeks of summer freedom. But 17-year-old Abigail Burman spent the day standing up to a proposed law that could take away a valued privilege.

She was one of dozens of residents, civic association members and local leaders who attended the County Council’s public hearing on a proposed curfew for minors, which police hope will slow an increase in juvenile crime, including gang activity.

“A curfew will mark every teen in Montgomery County as a suspect because of their age,” Abigail said. “Teens want to work with police, but we should be stepping up existing laws, working with the community.”

County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the curfew — from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and midnight to 5 a.m. on weekends-would be “used as a tool” and the “deterrent effect would be the strongest part of this.”

During the July Fourth weekend, about 70 people — a mix of minors and adults — made their way into Silver Spring late at night, county police said, and became so riled that someone was stabbed.

The District and Prince George’s County have curfews, Chief Manger said, which can push minors into Montgomery County to avoid the D.C. restriction.

The chief said the county has about 1,300 gang members. Police said juvenile arrests increased by 6 percent from 2009 to 2010.

“We know we can’t arrest our way out of every problem,” Chief Manger said.

Holding the public hearing is one of several ways the county is trying to determine what curfew bill, if any, will pass. There will be a work session Sept. 15 for the county’s public safety committee.

As the bill currently stands, minors would need to be at home, on the way home or at another private residence at the start of the curfew. Some exceptions have been included, such as a job, running an errand for a parent, attending a religious event and handling an emergency outside a home.

State Delegate Kirill Reznik, Montgomery Democrat, suggested the county use existing tools “like trespass and nuisance laws,” instead of creating more.

Woody Brosnan, vice president of the group Safe Silver Spring, told the council that the curfew should include “reasonable exceptions” for concerts and sports events and to lower the cutoff age from younger than 18 to younger than 16.

Cpl. Henry Tippett, a police spokesman in Prince George’s County, said a curfew indeed helps.

“It gives us the authority to instruct juveniles to go home, or we can take them home,” he said. “It also deters them from being associated with someone involved in a more serious criminal element.”

Parents of minor found in violation could be required to take a parenting class. Minors found in violation could be ordered to serve as many as 25 hours of community service for each offense.