“Kids tend to go where they have the area of least resistance,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said of his county’s lack of a curfew. “We sort of stand alone. As a result you get the residual effect of people going where the opportunities are.”
Police point to one recent incident in which as many as 70 young people, including suspected gang members, gathered in downtown Silver Spring during the July 4 weekend. Many arrived on bus or Metro, police said. Several fights broke out, and one ended with the stabbing of a teenage girl, officials said. She survived.
“I don’t want to wait until they have escalated completely out of hand,” Leggett said.
Neither Leggett’s office nor the police department could provide statistics Tuesday on recent juvenile crime trends. From 2007 until 2010, the most recent gang-data available, gang-related incidents and crimes decreased in the county each year — from 507 to 232.
But police officers on the streets report they are encountering problems with teens who hang out in public areas into the early morning hours, officials said.
“We’re seeing an uptick,” said Assistant Police Chief Wayne Jerman.
An area of prime concern is one of Montgomery’s most bustling spots on weekend nights, downtown Silver Spring, with its movie theaters, wide sidewalks and restaurants. Leaders in Silver Spring, and families who gather there, take pride in the diversity of the crowd and, for the most part, its good behavior.
But officers also say that as nights wear on, particularly past 10, the crowd changes.
“It’s challenging,” said Capt. Donald Johnson, commander of the police district in and around Silver Spring. “I often compare it with the boardwalk in Ocean City at the time of night.”
Police stressed that the curfew would be valuable in other hot spots in the county beyond Silver Spring. It would ban people younger than 18 from public places after midnight on Friday and Saturday, and after 11 p.m. on other nights. They could be back out at 5 a.m.
The legislation provides exceptions — travel to a job and emergencies, for example.
Under the proposal, youths picked up would be taken to a police station and released to a parent or guardian. Later, a court could order community service for the child. And parents could be required to take parenting classes.
In Prince George’s County, youths under 17 cannot be in public places after midnight on weekends and after 10 p.m. on other nights. In the District, youths under 17 cannot be in public places after midnight on weekends and after 11 p.m. on other nights. The cutoff extends to midnight for all nights during the summer.