[by Karen O’Keefe]
On Sunday, September 18th, five members of the Montgomery County Council spoke at the monthly District 20 Breakfast Club. The curfew was one of the most talked-about topics, and several community members expressed concerns about the proposal during the question-and-answer period or individually to council members. Council President Valerie Ervin (District 5), who seemed to support a curfew in some form, indicated that Councilmember Phil Andrews (District 3) will be working on the specific language and that she doesn’t expect a vote for a couple of months. Earlier this month, Andrews wrote an excellent op-ed in the Gazette opposing the curfew.
While most council members indicated they were leaning in favor of the curfew, their positions generally did not seem completely unalterable and — at a minimum — the details of the curfew bill seem very likely to change. So, this is a great time to engage your council members.
Here are some specific comments (all of which are paraphrased) from council members:
George Leventhal (at-large) said he was undecided and made it clear he wanted to hear from constituents on the topic. He expressed concern about the message that the curfew debate is sending, which indicates that downtown Silver Spring is not a safe place, when it actually is safe.
Councilmember Marc Elrich (at-large) said he was leaning toward the curfew. Both he and Valerie Ervin indicated they put a lot of trust in local police. (County Police Lt. Robert Carter testified about targeting “bad kids” who could be identified by their “behavior,” such as, “It’s the kids who come to hang out but never spend a dime at area businesses.”) Elrich said that youth crime is rising, but acknowledged that the police did not feel it was worthwhile to crunch the data and distinguish between youth crime after the curfew times and before them. Thus, the data seems irrelevant to a curfew debate.
Hans Riemer (at-large) told the group he was leaning strongly for the curfew as the father of two youth, and indicated he felt a purpose of the curfew was to keep young people safe.
Nancy Floreen (at-large) spoke briefly in support of the curfew, saying something about having imposed a similar curfew on her children and indicating that those parents who would fail to do so would be failing in their parental duties. Two of my closest friends and I were away at college — though not emancipated — at least seven months before our 18th birthdays, and I am aware of people who went away to war at age 17. If we had only been married off (a right that is only available to opposite sex couples in Maryland) or legally emancipated, we would have been exempt under the proposal and not been considered minors. So in the infinite wisdom of the curfew ordinance drafters, if only I would have gotten married at 17, I would have been adult enough to go out for Taco Bell at 12:30 a.m.
Meanwhile, as of 2009, the clearance rate in Maryland for violent crime was just 55%, with a clearance rate of only 15% for breaking or entering and 13% for motor vehicle theft. This summer, local police failed to properly investigate the killing of a deer with a high powered rifle in someone else’s backyard in a densely populated area one block from my home: No ballistics tests were done and police did not interview anyone that night in either of the two houses that were immediately identified by witnesses as the only two properties where the shots could have come from. I don’t know about others, but I prefer our law enforcement and court resources focus on solving some of those crimes with victims, rather than sorting out whether a youth is 17 1/2 or 18 and determining if they were going straight home from a movie, or impermissibly sticking around to talk or to buy a burrito.