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1st Early-Curfew Violators Picked Up

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, right, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams visit with Kevon Matthews, 11, a resident of Barry Farm in Southeast.
D.C. Council member Marion Barry, right, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams visit with Kevon Matthews, 11, a resident of Barry Farm in Southeast. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)

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By Petula Dvorak and Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; 10:04 AM

The District's earlier youth curfew took effect on the city's sweltering streets last night in a dramatic way. A 14-year-old who was out after 10, in violation of the curfew, was picked up on a different set of charges: theft and assault.

The youth's mother tried to invoke the curfew in her son's defense. She maintained to police that he could not have been the suspect in the theft of potato chips at a Northwest Washington store because he had just called to say he was coming home to avoid violating the curfew.

The incident illustrated one of the purposes of the law: to curb crime by keeping youths off the streets at an hour when crime is more likely to occur. As it turned out, authorities said, the youth was on probation for robbery with a BB gun.

As the minutes ticked by, police seized three other curfew violators. A 13-year-old and his 16-year-old friend said they didn't know about the new hours. A third said she was about to get on a bus (which is an exempt activity in some circumstances).

"I say it's dumb," the 16-year-old said of the earlier deadline for being off the street. "It's the summertime. It's the only time we get to do what we want."

Police drove the 13- and 16-year-old youths to a processing center in Southeast, where each was picked up by a parent. Although she was annoyed to have to retrieve her son, the mother of the 13-year-old said she approved of the new rule.

"Maybe it will stop some violence," she said. "It's good for my son's safety."

And so it went in the first hours of the 10 p.m. curfew. On the whole, 48 youths were picked up overnight, police said this morning, with 31 of them taken into custody between 10 p.m. and 12 p.m.

Only 12 of the youths had arrived at the Southeast processing center--one of two such facilities in the city --by 1 a.m.

The stricter curfew -- two hours earlier than the usual midnight cutoff time for July and August -- has generated debate in neighborhoods throughout the city, with some viewing it as a potential crime-fighting tool and others as a cosmetic solution.

"I gotta think it's a little too early," said Desiree Thrash, 14, of Southeast Washington, who was immediately cut off by her mother.

"It is not -- I love it," Jackie Thrash, 41, declared. "I have teenage children, and I like that the police will be keeping teenagers at home. You're too young to be out that late, anyhow."

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