“The experiment that is downtown Silver Spring is on the precipice now of failing,” Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) said Tuesday during a public hearing on the possible curfew. With a busy transit center under construction and a concert hall slated to open, “thousands more people” from across the Washington region will be taking advantage of “this wonderful open-space concept,” she said.
“Now we’ve created this space that’s known to youth in all jurisdictions,” Ervin said. But “people really do not feel safe any longer.”
Today’s Silver Spring represents the culmination of years of planning, investment and rebranding that turned a depressed swath of Maryland suburb into a vibrant destination. But law enforcement and business representatives argue that police need a new tool to tamp down bad actors and thuggery in a place that wants to be hip, not dangerous. The curfew, proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), would cover people younger than 18 and start at 11 p.m. during the week and just after midnight Friday and Saturday. Violators could be required to perform community service, and their parents could have to take parenting classes.
Uncertainty on council
County Council members said they remain unsure whether a curfew — like ones in neighboring Prince George’s County and the District — is a good idea. Several council members raised pointed questions at Tuesday’s hearing in Rockville.
Teenagers who would be subject to the proposed rules also voiced opposition. “You want us to be scholars, you want us to be athletes, and you tie our hands by shortening an already too-short day,” said Connor Jobes, an incoming junior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.
But many officials said they are so alarmed by a recent gang fight in Silver Spring that, even if a curfew is not judged to be the answer, they are planning a concerted effort to try to halt the bustling neighborhood from backsliding. Former county executive Doug Duncan made a rare appearance in the hearing audience to lend his support to the notion that action is needed to protect the county effort that he helped spearhead in Silver Spring.
“We put a lot of investment and time in Silver Spring. We can’t just walk away and say, ‘We’re done.’ . . . We have to make sure people feel safe,” Duncan said. He did not stake out a position on the curfew, but said the council clearly understood that more needs to be done to improve safety.
Duncan said he remains encouraged by Silver Spring’s emergence. “Just 10 years ago, there was nothing there. I do feel good about that,” he said.
Parts of Silver Spring have blossomed, with Ethiopian and numerous other restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and a new civic building and gathering space at Veterans Plaza. But law enforcement authorities said the neighborhood tenor shifts in some spots as the hour gets later.