Riviera OKs curfew for youths 17 and under
RIVIERA BEACH — Teens have one fewer city to hang out in late at night after the council voted to enact a curfew Wednesday.
Juveniles age 17 and under will have to be home by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends and holidays. Mayor Thomas Masters, who made the curfew a campaign issue, said he wants to go beyond just rounding up teens, only to return them to troubled homes.
He said the city will use a community center at 17th and E Street to work with them and their parents. Juvenile justice counselors will be on duty from the start of curfew until it ends at 6 a.m.
"We realize that if a 12-year-old kid is on the street, there is a problem somewhere," Masters said.
Counselors will be able to link families with parenting help, mentoring and other programs, Masters said, and can step in if the parents cannot be found.
"We don't want our police officers babysitting," Masters said.
City council members who approved the curfew said they want to prevent teens from getting hurt and committing crimes.
According to Riviera Beach police statistics, 1,846 crimes were committed by juveniles in the city between 2002 and 2006. Of those crimes, 253 occurred between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Some city residents spoke in support of the ordinance, saying most children under 18 have no legitimate reason to be hanging out in the middle of the night. If it keeps one teen alive or out of prison, it will be worth the cost, some said.
Others said they thought the curfew, though well-intentioned, would be ineffective and encouraged the city to focus on parents who fail to control their children and the root reasons that teens are getting in trouble.
The curfew passed 4-1, with Councilwoman Norma Duncombe dissenting. She said that instead of enacting a curfew, Riviera Beach should focus more attention on programs meant to keep teens out of trouble.
Youth curfews, though controversial, have been adopted by many cities in recent years. West Palm Beach passed a tougher curfew this summer.
Under West Palm Beach's law, youths age 17 and younger aren't allowed downtown unescorted by adults after 11 p.m. on weekends and after 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. The downtown area is bounded by Okeechobee Boulevard, Australian Avenue, Banyan Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway.
In an effort to avoid legal challenges that undid curfews in other cities, the Riviera Beach ordinance contains a variety of exceptions for kids with legitimate reasons to be out - including those who are with a parent, legally employed, attending a school function or have an emergency.
First-time violators will get a written warning from a police officer.
The second incident will bring community service or a fine of $50 plus court costs, and the third will be $100.
On the fourth offense, teens will be referred to a state program called CINS/FINS, which helps teens who are struggling at home, running away and at risk of getting in trouble.
The overnight curfew will go hand-in-hand with crackdowns on truants during the day, Masters said,
The city plans to publicize the new ordinance this month and begin enforcing it in November.
RIVIERA BEACH — Although the city council approved a teen curfew Wednesday night, the board plans to have a workshop to give the public a chance to weigh in on the measure before final approval.
The ordinance was adopted 4-1 on first reading, with Councilwoman Norma Duncombe dissenting.
Duncombe doubted that the curfew would curb juvenile crime.
"I'm one of those persons who thinks we have to do things to change the behavior of children," Duncombe said. "I don't think the curfew will work."
Meanwhile, several residents spoke in favor of the curfew.
Bill Contole, president of the Citizens for Responsible Growth for Riviera Beach, said the lawyer in him initially opposed the idea.
But he believes it will protect children and help reduce some of the city's violent crime.
"This is something the community wants," Contole said.
Dubbed the youth protection ordinance, the curfew requires youngsters to be off the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
On Friday and Saturday and legal holidays, the curfew is midnight to 6 a.m.
The plan is the brainchild of Mayor Thomas Masters, who campaigned on the issue. It is the mayor's first major initiative since he was elected in March.