On Tuesday, roughly 120 people (my count) came to a public hearing on the proposed youth curfew at the County Council in Rockville. Our friend Whitney at Colesville Patch says of 27 speakers, those who opposed the curfew outnumbered supporters two to one. The Post suggested that controversy over the curfew is closely tied to how people see the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring, which County Council President Valerie Ervin called an "experiment . . . on the precipice now of failing." (I'd like to know what she means by that.) And today, the Action Committee for Transit came out in opposition to the curfew, arguing that the success of Silver Spring requires "strenuous efforts to ensure safety, but not a safety achieved by excluding one segment of the population."
Following is my testimony. You can watch the entire hearing, and save clips of it (as I did above) by going to this website and searching for July 26.
Good afternoon. My name is Dan Reed, I'm twenty-three years old, and I'm opposed to a curfew in Montgomery County. Most of you behind the dais already know me because I used to work here. It's nice to see you again.
Growing up in Silver Spring, I led a wild life. I stayed out after midnight at my friends' houses playing board games, swing dancing at Glen Echo Park, and once I even snuck into an R-rated movie at the Majestic 20. I had two doting parents who were fine with me being out as long as they knew where I was. Somehow, I survived. And I'm sure most teens in Montgomery County, and quite a few in the District and Prince George's, do as well. And i refuse to believe or take seriously the hyperbolic assertion that our neighborhoods are under siege by "teens on the loose."
While the stabbing that occurred in downtown Silver Spring three weeks ago was unfortunate, we should not forget that it was an anomaly. As many of the speakers today have pointed out, gang and youth violence in the county have been dropping and arrests of youth under 18 have been dropping. Yet County Executive Leggett and the police department have been quick to scapegoat our youth and youth from surrounding communities for a rare incident. A county police officer even called into the Kojo Nnamdi Show last week and said he should be able to approach any young person and demand to know their business whether or not they're suspected of any wrongdoing.
I am a young black male. I have been racially profiled. I was pulled over in Virginia two years ago and had my car searched for narcotics. I do know that this is not rural Virginia, but i don't trust our police officers to have any better discretion when they're dealing with young people in our county.
And that's not the only reason I oppose the curfew. the fact of the matter is that if we want to create lively urban districts like Silver Spring, like Bethesda, like we're going to do in White Flint, we want people on the street. We should not be sending law-abiding people home. That's the parent's job. We should be encouraging people of all ages to be out at night enjoying the places that you are spending money to create in this county. The best crime deterrent we have is not a line of cop cars on Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring but having simply "eyes on the street." The two thousand people that will come for a show at the Fillmore are two thousand additional pairs of eyes out there enjoying themselves, but also ensuring that anyone who wants to do something wrong has two thousand additional witnesses to come after them.
Thank you for your time. I'm sure that the council is not going to give in to the irrational fears of a small minority and find a solution that keeps both our communities and our civil liberties safe.