Back to previous page


Post Most

This Montgomery County curfew skeptic says it’s not too late to be a good parent

By ,

We’re a nation of wimpy parents who hate saying no to our kids.

So too often, we ask the government or some other entity to say no for us.

We ask council members or school officials or corporate executives to make our kids eat, play and dress better. From banning Happy Meals and violent video games to nixing chocolate milk and setting curfews, we implore someone meaner than us to set the rules for our households.

The latest example comes in Montgomery County, where the County Council is considering an ill-conceived curfew for kids under 18 after a flash-mob gang fight shattered the calm of a summer night in downtown Silver Spring.

The rumble, waged by about 100 alleged gang members who arrived by Metro and bus from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said at a hearing on the proposed curfew this week.

It took 40 officers until about 2:30 a.m. to end the brawl. One woman was stabbed.

I don’t mean to minimize an uptick in crime. Montgomery police said the downtown I love for its Lebanese food and fun spray park hosted 77 street robberies in the past year, about a third of which had kids as perps or victims. During the same period, there were 26 assaults, and nine of them somehow involved kids.

Because there are curfews in neighboring D.C. and Prince George’s, police said they get the spillover of rowdy kids who are looking for trouble and victims.

Teens need curfews, but it isn’t the police who should be imposing them; it’s the teens’ parents. And too often, the parents are missing in action.

At the jam-packed hearing, Montgomery officers assured curfew skeptics and opponents that they weren’t out to lock up the kids coming home late from jobs or Harry Potter premieres.

“We’re not going to be backing up the prisoner transport van to the back of the Majestic Theater [and say], ‘Hey all you kids coming out of the Harry Potter movie, everybody under 18, in the back of the wagon.’ I mean, we’re just not going to do that,” Lt. Robert Carter, a deputy commander of the Silver Spring district of the Montgomery police, told The Post.

So, how exactly do they plan on telling the good kids from the bad ones?

I’m pretty sure most kids will forget their government-issued, GOOD KID ID badge every time they go out. A government-imposed curfew opens the door to harassment and profiling when what we need is policing of criminals and parenting of kids.

Police officers need to be able to spend their time catching the bad guys, not guessing which kids will go bad. If there’s a surge in crime in one area, they should have the ability to increase patrols there. Tying them up on dozens of curfew arrests every night isn’t helping anyone.

Five years ago, when the District began its first night of an early curfew, I hung out with cops who triumphed when their first curfew violator was a 14-year-old on probation for robbery with a BB gun.

Good catch, yes. But a curfew didn’t mean squat to that kid and neither did his probation conditions.

His problems went back to the home, back to parents who weren’t willing or able to set boundaries.

I know, it’s not easy to be the bad guy.

One night this week, I totally needed our usual evening trip to the pool. But the kids were being horrid and called me on my “No pool tonight if you keep doing that!” threat. I kept my word and suffered, ungraciously, in the name of discipline.

I hope they’ll be good tonight so we can return to the pool. It’s going to be another hot July evening — so hot, they’re not going to want to get out of the pool. Thankfully, the lifeguard is there to blow the whistle and order them out at closing time, because I have a heck of a time doing it myself.

Wimp!

© The Washington Post Company