To Grumbling From City Youths, Earlier Curfew Starts Tomorrow

By Allan Lengel and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 30, 2006

A police crackdown on curfew violators in the District -- more than 830 this month -- is about to get even tougher under a plan that has sparked annoyance among youths and a measure of hope for police and city officials trying to curb a crime surge.

Starting tomorrow, children 16 and younger have to be off the streets and out of city hangouts by 10 p.m., two hours earlier than the current government curfew. The ban will continue until Aug. 30, although it could be extended.

"Kids tend to get into petty mischief, particularly under the cover of darkness," said D.C. police Inspector Lillian Overton. "Some of the petty mischief can escalate into far greater offenses."

"We're tired of rushing the kids to the hospital. We're tired of scooping the children off the street or locking them up. Our goal is to keep them safe and prevent them from harming innocent citizens," she added.

Many teenagers deride the toughened curfew as a quick fix that won't actually fix anything.

"I don't think it's really going to do much," said Jake Tempchin, 14, of upper Northwest Washington. "The shady characters are going to go where they're not going to get caught. The people just walking down the street, it seems they're more likely to get caught than the people who are a threat. It really doesn't seem that much more dangerous after 10 than it does before 10." He was not among those picked up during the crackdown.

The curfew, part of an emergency crime bill approved by the D.C. Council and signed into law by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), comes after police reported an 82 percent jump in juvenile robberies and a 27 percent increase in youth-related weapons charges in roughly the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2005.

Youths can be exempt from the curfew under some circumstances, including if they are accompanied by someone 21 or older, if they are working or returning from a job or if they are running an errand for a parent or guardian.

"I was out last night just roaming around," said D.C. police Inspector Pat Burke. "It's amazing how many young people are out there and unsupervised. We've got a proliferation of juvenile robberies. We've got to address it in some way, and this is just one of the ways."

By 12:30 a.m. Thursday, 30 minutes into the witching hour, police east of the Anacostia River had rounded up 16 youths in Southeast and Northeast. After being transported in police cruisers to the 7th District police station on Alabama Avenue SE, one of two sites used to hold violators, the teenagers waited for a parent to pick them up.

By 1:30 a.m., Officer Lawrence B. Ames Jr., patrolling the surrounding streets, concluded that the crackdown was working. No violators were seen.

"We're starting to see less and less" curfew breaking, he said.

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