Enforcement of the juvenile curfew in Prince George’s County will be extended through the end of the year, County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) announced Tuesday.
Alsobrooks and Police Chief Malik Aziz at a news conference hailed the curfew as a success, saying certain crimes have gone down, parents became engaged and community members came together to keep young people safe.
“We are not done yet,” Alsobrooks said. “There is still so much work to do … but we are really pleased with what we’ve seen so far.”
Officials said overall crime decreased by 20 percent during the hours of curfew in the first month of enforcement, between Sept. 9 and Oct. 11, compared to the previous 30 days. Officials also said carjackings, contact shootings and violent crime in general also dropped, citing broad percentages. But the police department said Tuesday it could not immediately provide specific data on the number of incidents recorded during curfew and the 30 days before enforcement for each of the crime categories mentioned during the announcement Tuesday.
Alsobrooks had announced the restricted hours on Labor Day after one of the worst months for homicides in county history. The move got mixed reviews, with some applauding her for addressing community concerns about crime and others criticizing what they saw as a quick, political fix to a complex problem.
The most recent weekend came and went with no curfew violations recorded. Over the past month, however, police have issued four warning letters for violations. The county will also follow up with the families in each incident to offer resources through the Hope in Action collective, an anti-violence project, Alsobrooks said.
Data collected from Prince George’s shows that violent crime over the summer rose to one of its highest points in recent years. During August, there were 24 homicides in the county, the biggest count in recent decades. The county executive said more carjackings were occurring between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., with teens primarily involved in those crimes.
Alsobrooks called the curfew — which was first approved in Prince George’s in the 1990s — a tool to help the county collect crime data. Curfew hours are 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
“The curfew was not meant to be punitive to our children, but to require parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles … to step up and do what was necessary to protect our kids,” Alsobrooks said.
Alsobrooks acknowledged that young people, including her daughter, were unhappy about the curfew and questioned why it was needed.
“I say to them, it was for their protection,” she said, adding that there was a drop in the number of youths on the street during the just-concluded month of enforcement.
At a recent town hall meeting, Prince George’s Deputy Chief James McCreary said the county has seen a “significant reduction” in violence compared to August since curfew enforcement. He also said the police dedicated a “significant” amount of overtime resources in recent weeks, with school resource officers conducting truancy sweeps to ensure that students were in school during daytime hours.
The specific impact of the curfew, however, is unclear. Crime often dips at this time of year before rising as the holiday season begins, according to a review of data since 2017 by The Washington Post.
“We don’t believe that the curfew is any panacea, or a total resolution,” Aziz said.
Alongside the curfew, involvement from parents, community support, proactive community policing efforts and overtime contributed to the downward trend, Aziz said.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission extended hours at some community recreation centers for youths but did not see an increase in attendance, Alsobrooks said. The extended hours at recreation centers will not continue, she said, but they will be monitored as needed.
Alsobrooks said the curfew will be evaluated again after the holidays.
“This was never to hunt down kids. … That was never the objective,” Alsobrooks said about the curfew. “The objective was to ask parents to step in and be responsible for their children.”
Beverly John, president and executive director of the Talking Drum, a community organization, questions the metrics of achievement the county used to tout the efficacy of the curfew.
“We had a high murder rate. The youths were responsible? It’s kind of like they’re conflating some of the issues,” she said. “Why would curfew have an impact on that? Some things have to be teased out on that.”
In August, at least four homicides appear to have involved juvenile victims or arrestees. That count does not include a 5-year-old who died in what police say was a child abuse case.
To get to the root of why juvenile crime has been on the rise, county leaders need to go to affected neighborhoods and communities, said John, a member of the Prince George’s County Coalition for Police Accountability.
Comments Alsobrooks made about parents and guardians needing to step up to protect children don’t take into account the level of hardship many adults faced before and after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, John said.
“Some of them are doing the best they can do,” she said, adding that parents might also be in need of mental health care and other assistance. “How do you know they’re not doing the best they can do?”
Katie Mettler and John Harden contributed to this report.