Curfew for youth set for city

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 7/16/17

CARBON HILL - In a surprise move, the Carbon Hill City Council on Thursday unanimously adopted a curfew for the city’s youth two weeks earlier than expected.

The ordinance took effect immediately, although it provides for review for the …

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Curfew for youth set for city

Posted

CARBON HILL - In a surprise move, the Carbon Hill City Council on Thursday unanimously adopted a curfew for the city’s youth two weeks earlier than expected.

The ordinance took effect immediately, although it provides for review for the effectiveness of the law at the first council meeting after 90 days, which would be Oct. 26.

During Thursday’s meeting, Chambers said, “I don’t think this will infringe on anyone’s freedom. There are plenty of scenarios in the ordinance. If you send your kid to the store, he’s fine after the curfew or he is fine to send anywhere you want to. This is not to interfere with everyday family activities. This is to get the kids off the streets and 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”

Police Chief Jason Hare, who was appointed that night by the council, had recently suggested the idea of setting up a curfew, but had indicated it would not be brought up until the July 27 meeting.

Mayor Mark Chambers interacted with a number of readers when the Daily Mountain Eagle posted a story of the idea on July 7, which Chambers passed along on his Facebook page. That post brought 69 comments.

At Thursday’s meeting, the council suspended the rules to allow an ordinance to be adopted on the first reading.

Under the new ordinance, which the city released Friday afternoon, minors 17 years old and younger will be under curfew from 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday until 6 a.m. the following day, and from 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday or official city holidays declared by the mayor until 6 a.m. the next morning.

“It shall be unlawful for a parent or custodian to permit or by insufficient control to allow a minor under the parent’s or custodian’s care,” the ordinance states. It also said a for-profit business establishment in the city, which includes those for entertainment or amusement, shall not allow a minor to remain in the premises. The establishment will post a copy of the curfew hours if it is in the city limits or the police jurisdiction.

Exemptions can be made in several instances, including being accompanied by a parent or custodian, doing a “reasonable errant as directed by his parent or guardian,” being in a vehicle traveling from one state to another, exercising First Amendment rights (such as freedom of religion, speech and assembly), being on residential property where the child resides or being involved in an emergency.

They may be excused if the are “engaged in a lawful employment activity pursuant to his parent’s or custodian’s direction, or going to or returning home from such employment activity by a direct route without any unnecessary detour or stop and within one hour of the termination of the employment activity.” Those “emancipated, except for those legally enrolled in school” are also exempted,

Also exempted are those attending, or going to and from, a “bona fide work-study program or “an official school, religions or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored” by the city or other public bodies or civic groups. In traveling in those situations, they have to be taking “a direct route without any unnecessary detour or stop and within one hour” of the end of those activities (or also within one hour the start of the school, religious and recreational activity).

According the ordinance emailed to the Eagle, parents, custodians and the establishments and their operators by be issued a warning for the first offense, which is punishable by $25. A second conviction within a 12-month period can be fined by $50. On the third and subsequent violations within a 12-month period, a court appearance will be required, and the same parties can be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment in the city jail “at hard labor upon the streets and public works for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

However, Brown said at the meeting the first violation is a warning or a fine of $50 and the second violation in a 12-month period is $100.

She agreed with the wording of the third violation that was emailed, including the fine of up to $500, the jail time and the community service. Chambers said Friday his intention was to increase the first fines to $50 and $100, noting the ordinance was based on Cordova’s ordinance, although he noted the ordinance emailed was the ordinance passed.

The ordinance notes that the court can suspend sentence and require community service instead, and it can also order counseling or classes and programs to improve parenting and child-raising skills.

If the law is violated in the daytime, law enforcement will try to find the identity of the parents and transport the minor to the appropriate school official (and, if not enrolled, then to Walker County Family Court).

If it happens at night, the officer would find the identity of the parent and take the child to the parent. In the case of absent parents or possible abuse, or the parents living outside the municipality or refusing to take custody, the child will be taken to Walker County Family Court. After two hours of trying to notify the parents, the minor can also be taken to family court then.

At any time, the minor will be taken into custody if it is believed the child committed a criminal offense.

Adults can also be given a written citation.

“If the minor’s parent(s) is not available to be cited, the officer shall swear to a complaint. The magistrate, upon determining cause, shall issue a summons,” the ordinance says. “A non-custodial arrest shall be attempted. However, if the adult violator refuses to sign the citation, a custodial arrest shall be affected.”

At Thursday’s council meeting, Chambers also referred to an incident on June 27 where three juveniles were involved with the theft and beating of a puppy, although Hare said that occurred between noon and 2 p.m.

The juveniles also tried to drown the puppy, which was recovered alive but died days later. The juveniles were arrested, Hare said.

“I think everybody in town is mad about it,” Chambers said, noting he and his family was upset about it, especially as it involved youth.

Chambers noted break-ins at the local post office and flower pots turned over at the local bank. “Something’s got to be done about it. Without the curfew, we can’t do anything about it,” he said. “You have to actually catch them in the act. This way we can keep it from happening by keeping them in the house. I’ve been told all my life that late at night, there ain’t nothing good going on anyway.”

Hare said, “Our youth is our future. It keeps them off of drugs and people selling drugs. It keeps them away from them. We’re going to be out on the streets putting these people in jail, but we can’t put everybody in jail,” as so many are selling drugs on the street with one officer working on a shift.

He also said it would prevent kidnappings. “We had 11 year olds running on the streets at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said Hare, who patrolled at night after he was hired in late April. “That’s uncalled for.”

Hare blamed parents for that, saying they should be able to keep their children at home, noting parents will pay a fine if the children are caught in violation.

In response to another parent’s question, city officials said if a child is caught and stopped, the parent will be called to see what the circumstance is. City officials and observers at the meeting also agreed that the parents should take more responsibility.

Residents concerned about dog bites, break-ins

Local resident Gertrude Carter said she gives her grandson a curfew. “He’s got to be there before the street lights come on. You can’t be out there. Where I live, it is pitch black once the street lights start coming on, so his curfew is 6 o’clock. 

Carter took notice of the dogs, saying one cannot walk to the post office due to dogs on the attack, sometimes against children. She said those attacks have not been publicized as much as when the dog was killed.

“My grandson is scared to go on Eighth Avenue to his friend’s house, because he gets attacked by dogs,” she said, noting one attack on a friend of her grandson happened shortly before the dog was killed, which led her to prevent her grandson from going to the swimming pool.

“Nothing was said about the kid when he got bit, but when that dog got killed, it was all over Facebook,” Carter said emotionally, “and nothing about that poor kit that was bit by the dog. I’ve been very upset about that.”

City officials urged her to contact the police when dogs become a problem, and Chambers said no one told the police that the child was bit. She agreed they probably didn’t.

Carter said previous calls to the police only resulted in officers saying animal control is not available, but Chambers said a new police chief is now in place. Police officials at the meeting urged the public to call and fill out a report if such an incident happens, and the department will investigate the case.

Another resident, Willie Scott Doty, who was born and raised in the city and moved two months ago, said she has been broken into three times and police are not patrolling like they say they do.

“If they could go back on Sixth Avenue, that’s where they can stop the stuff, because that’s where it is happening at,” she said. “I’m scared to even change my clothes because of peeping Toms. It is ridiculous up here, it really is.”