- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett said Tuesday he feels confident a bill to establish a controversial youth curfew has enough support to pass the nine-member County Council.

Mr. Leggett met with the council members for a roundtable discussion on the legislation, which stemmed from a late night incident over the Fourth of July weekend in which about 70 people got involved in a fight in downtown Silver Spring that resulted in a stabbing.

Montgomery County police reasoned that because surrounding jurisdictions like the District and Prince George’s County have youth curfews, minors may have decided to congregate in the county to avoid restrictions.

The proposed curfew would make it a civil violation for juveniles to be out in public between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and midnight and 5 a.m. on weekends. Youths could be fined $100 for a first curfew offense and $150 for a second offense, according to a draft of the bill.

But several issues remain to be resolved, including one council member’s suggestion that the authority to invoke a curfew should be delegated to the county executive rather than passed into law by the council.

“I’m not sure that it’s great idea to politicize this thing. It ultimately is a public safety issue,” said council member Nancy M. Floreen, a Democrat.

She suggested that rather than adopting a new curfew law, the county executive could be given authority to impose curfews as needed.

The approach has been used in other jurisdictions, allowing mayors or other municipal leaders to implement a curfew in specified geographic areas within a jurisdiction or for limited spans of time.

“It’s not something that I would reject,” Mr. Leggett, a Democrat, said of the idea. “It’s something we need to look at. You could achieve the same objective.”

After a July public hearing, which drew input from dozens of teens who opposed the curfew, Mr. Leggett made several revisions to the bill, including that any curfew violations would be civil and not criminal offenses.

In a memo to council President Valerie Ervin, a Democrat, Mr. Leggett also recommended the deletion of a portion of the bill that allows the courts to require parents of juveniles found in violation of the curfew to attend parenting classes.

Multiple instances are outlined in the bill that would allow a juvenile to be out past curfew, including if the juvenile is with a parent, working or returning home from a school activity. The circumstance that a juvenile was returning home from an entertainment event was also added to the list of exceptions after the July hearing.

The county’s public safety committee is scheduled to discuss the bill and revisions Thursday. Council member Phil Andrews, a Democrat and the committee’s chairman, has opposed the curfew bill and said Tuesday he is still seeking information from supporters that proves the premise behind it: that a curfew will reduce crime.

“I really want this decision to be a data driven, well-informed decision,” Mr. Andrews said. “The evidence I’ve seen is that [other jurisdictions] have not accomplished the stated goal of reducing crime.”

The committee will make a recommendation on the proposed law before it is sent to the council for further action.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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