- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

The D.C. Council narrowly defeated an emergency bill yesterday that would have established an earlier youth summer curfew.

While winning a 7-6 majority, the proposal to establish the 10 p.m. curfew for minors younger than 17 fell two votes short of the two-thirds required to pass an emergency measure.

“Based on the knowledge we have about curfews, it doesn”t fix anything; although it feels good,” said Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, who voted against the legislation.

Current law sets the youth curfew at midnight in summer. Teens are exempted for a job, school or a civic or recreational activity.

The bill’s co-introducers, Tommy Wells and Jim Graham, called the vote a failure to protect child safety.

“By just focusing on the juvenile justice issues, we really ignored the issue of whether children 13 years old or younger … are at risk without an adult being outside after 10 at night,” said Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat.

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said the vote was a “partial victory” and pledged to bring back the bill at the next legislative meeting.

“It’s another tool in your arsenal,” Mr. Graham said. “You use every tool that you can lay your hands on when you’re having a crime wave. And that’s what we’re in right now, at least in Ward 1.”

But several other council members proposed holding a hearing to consider abolishing the curfew after criticism that it has been ineffective and misused by police to harass teens.

Youth representatives from various civil rights organizations filled the council chamber to express dissent for the curfew legislation.

Italo Cruz, 17, who wore a white T-shirt calling for “real crime fighting, not abuse of powers,” said that although last year’s curfew may have been warranted, it is not this year.

“Statistics show that kids are not committing crimes and that curfews have no effect on crime,” he said.

The council passed emergency curfew legislation last summer after a string of homicides involving juveniles. The bill had allowed Mayor Anthony A. Williams to set a 10 p.m. curfew.

The number of juveniles arrested for crimes decreased from 47 to 29 during the 79 days after the curfew change as compared with the 79 days prior, according to police statistics. Police said the number of juveniles who were victims of crime dropped from seven to four over the same period.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, said the statistics are inconclusive and called the curfew, first enacted in 1995, an “apartheid” on D.C. youth. During the school year, the curfew begins at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

Council members urged alternatives to tightening the curfew that would combat crime and support youth, such as more job training and increased hours at recreational centers.

“The city has launched a comprehensive summer crime strategy that increases police visibility and provides District youth with constructive activities during summer break,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said.

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