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US: New Albany resident trying to bring back curfew for kids

If it was up to Djuana Harris, no child under the age of 17 would be allowed on the streets after 9 p.m. without adult supervision.

Sound drastic? Harris doesn't think so, especially after vandals used spray paint on several cars parked on her street recently. And the vandalism didn't end there.

"I live on a nice street," she said. "It's nothing for my husband and I to come home around midnight or 1 a.m. and see teenagers out on the streets. I don't think kids have anything they need to be doing at one or two in the morning."

Harris would like to see New Albany and Floyd County put a curfew law back on the books. However, that might not be as easy as it sounds.

In 2004, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that Indiana's curfew law was unconstitutional, saying it discourages the exercise of minors' rights to free speech.

The law, which was enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in 2001, required teens under the age of 18 to be home by 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, unless they met one of several exceptions including being with parents, emergencies, traveling to school or church-related events or coming to and from work. Under the Indiana law, teens under 17 were not allowed to just "hang out" past curfew.

That all changed with the appeals court ruling.

"I think we need to put the curfew back on the books," said Harris, who has spoken with her City Councilman, Larry Kochert, about the issue. "The ruling left the door open for individual communities to enact their own curfew."

However, New Albany and Floyd County have always abided by Indiana law when it comes to curfew. And right now, there is no curfew to enforce.

"We can't just stop them unless they commit a crime," Floyd County Police Chief Frank Loop said. "Other than talk to them, and ask them how they are doing, we can't do anything."

Kochert, who represents the fourth district, agrees there needs to be a curfew for teens 16 and under. However, he doesn't know if there is enough support to get one through the City Council.

"There is just too much trouble for kids to get into out there," Kochert said. "Some parents just don't keep track of their kids like my parents did. Parents need to me more involved."

Many states have been struggling with the curfew issue, and many such as Indiana have been taken to court.

Some organizations, such as the ACLU and the National Youth Rights Association, oppose all types of curfew laws.

"We are absolutely against it," Alex Koroknay-Palicz, with the youth rights association, said. "They infringe on the rights of young people."

Harris disagrees.

"I personally think minors under 18 don't have any rights," she said. "They are minors. I feel like parents should be held accountable for their children."

Harris doesn't want to see minors jailed for being out past midnight. She think police officers should take the child home on a first offense, and if curfew is broken again, force the child and its parents to perform community service.

Harris said 10 p.m. would be an ideal curfew time. She said she has two teenagers who have to be home by 9 p.m. unless they are at a New Albany High School event.

"I have been very strict with my kids," she said.

The Great Escapte Theatre, at 300 Professional Court in New Albany, has an off-duty police officer on staff on Friday and Saturday nights. Great Escapte Manager John Powell said that is standard operational procedure.

"It's been like that since day one," he said. "It like that at every theater in the country."

Koroknay-Palicz said statistics show curfew laws don't deter crime. He said under traditional curfew laws, a teen could be arrested for walking down the street after curfew.

"Some states, like Indiana, have repealed curfew laws. I hope they stay that way," he said.

Posted by: SoulRiser
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Posted in: News by NewsBot on March 6, 2006 @ 12:00 AM

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