Monday, July 18, 2011

opposition grows to youth curfew

Kids On Ellsworth Drive
Teenagers enjoying fun, legal activities in downtown Silver Spring.

UPDATE: There are now 3,846 people in the "Stand Up to the MoCo Youth Curfew" group, including Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large).

As of last night, there were 3,648 people signed up for the "Stand Up to the MoCo Youth Curfew" Facebook group, started by four MCPS high school students. The proposed curfew (PDF), pushed by County Executive Ike Leggett after a teenage girl was stabbed in downtown Silver Spring on July 4, would make it illegal for people under 18 to be out after 11pm during the week and midnight on weekends. Though Leggett says it'll help reduce gang violence, the county's own police statistics show that gang- and youth-related crime has been dropping for years.

It surprises me that the county executive would vilify teenagers in a county known for kids who produce films and campaign for world peace and give Bethesda Magazine a reason to exist. Of course, not all teens in Montgomery County are so-called "overachiever kids," but I imagine there are more kids who are out late for study group than for committing crimes.

Yet, in the face of statistics that completely disprove his rationale for a curfew, Leggett sought a quick response to the July 4 stabbing that would show he's Doing Something About Crime. Good job, Ike: you've got a bunch of headlines, but no real solutions. Is that good leadership? Hardly.

Thankfully, there are elected officials in Montgomery County who see the folly in Leggett's proposal. I noticed State Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-Burtonsville) is also a member of the anti-curfew Facebook group. Aged twenty-nine, Luedtke finished high school in 1999, meaning he isn't too far removed from his own teenage years and can remember all of the legal things he did after 11pm back then. (Meanwhile, Ike Leggett can attend his fifty-year high school reunion next year.) Luedtke is also a teacher at Loiederman Middle School in Wheaton, meaning he works with kids who would be affected by the curfew.

"Those few young people who do engage in crime will simply be forced out of built up areas where there is some ability to monitor them and into neighborhoods where there isn't," writes Luedtke in an e-mail to JUTP. "And the vast majority of young people who have done nothing wrong? Well, they are innocent bystanders being punished for the actions of others."

While it's unlikely that all thirty-six-hundred people on the Facebook group will attend the County Council's public hearing on the curfew, it'll only take a fraction of them to fill the Council chambers and make their opposition clear. The hearing will be at the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville, on Tuesday, July 26 at 1:30pm. For more information or to testify, check out the Council's website. You can also sign this petition opposing the curfew.

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