The County Council voted 6-3 to table Expedited Bill 25-11 that would have established a youth curfew in Montgomery County, refusing to allow the measure to come to an up or down, yes-or-no vote.
In July, County Executive Ike Leggett proposed establishment of a youth curfew for minors that would prohibit certain activities during the curfew hours for those under 18. Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and from 12:01 a.m. until 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, a minor would have been prohibited from remaining in any County public place or establishment.
The proposed bill contained numerous exceptions. For example, a minor could have lawfully remained in public areas during curfew hours if they were: 1) accompanied by a parent or an adult authorized by the minor’s parent to accompany the minor; or 2) attending or returning home from an official school, religious or other recreational activity sponsored by the County, a civic organization or similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor. Other exceptions included returning home from a place of employment or from attending “an event at a place of public entertainment.”
A minor could have been cited for a curfew violation only after a police officer has told the minor to move along and the minor refused.
The Council had been considering the bill since July and Leggett had urged action on the measure to protect County youth from being victims of or becoming involved in late-night crime. The measure drew strong support from the Montgomery County Police, the Greater Silver Spring and Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase chambers of commerce, and several Community Citizen Advisory Boards, as well as editorially from The Washington Post and The Gazette.
“The County Council’s refusal to even take a yes or no vote on the proposed youth curfew is a failure of leadership,” said Leggett.
“Leadership means stepping up to the plate and deciding – yes or no – on critical issues that face our County. The youth curfew legislation has been before the County Council since July. It has been discussed exhaustively. We don’t need more talk – we need action.
“Our Police very much need this critical tool in order to deal with situations such as happened recently in Silver Spring and Germantown. I cannot believe that the Council denies our police officers this added help. I think it is unfortunate when politicians ‘second-guess’ our law enforcement professionals.
“I have heard that some Councilmembers are ‘afraid’ to vote for fear of offending one side or the other. I have heard others say, ‘Let’s wait until another late-night youth crime incident happens and then we’ll vote on it.’
“That’s not leadership. That’s the opposite of leadership.”
Leggett also emphasized that he “… will continue to work even harder to enhance public safety, especially for our young people. Our Police need and want a youth curfew which would help them perform their jobs and better protect our public. Our young people need the added protection a curfew brings.”
To hear the reaction of WTOP’s Chris Core on the Council’s failure to vote on the youth curfew bill, click on http://media.dev-cms.com/wtop/23/2321/232153.mp3.