Friday, July 8, 2016

City to enforce curfew for youth

Marion has a curfew, and police are cautioning parents and guardians to understand the consequences of allowing children to roam around unattended throughout town at night and causing problems.

Starting immediately, City of Marion Ordinance 136.01 will be enforced to the letter of the law, said Marion Police Chief Ray O’Neal. The strict adherence to the ordinance is prompted by a number of incidents recently involving juveniles who are vandalizing and creating other problems well after curfew hours.

According to the city’s 37-year-old curfew ordinance, it is unlawful for minors, 18 and under, to loiter, idle or remain in or upon public streets, highways, roads, alleys, parks, playgrounds, public places and public buildings, places of amusement and entertainment, vacant lots or other unsupervised places. The curfew is in effect beginning at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, but kids can stay out on Friday and Saturday nights until midnight. The curfew ends at 5 a.m. each day.

Marion police have on multiple occasions since school has let out for the summer dealt with issues involving children who are getting into mischief. While some of it has been during daytime hours – like the vandalism and theft of concession stand merchandise at Rocket Arena one day a couple of weeks ago – most of the problems are occurring overnight.

At Marion-Crittenden County Park, children have been observed damaging public property well after midnight.

“Last week, one of our officers picked up two young boys at 2:30 a.m. at the park,” the chief said.

“There has just been so much vandalism and other problems that we are going to have to start enforcing the city curfew,” he continued. “There is no reason children 10 to 15 years old should be out all night long without supervision. There is nothing they can do at 2 o’clock in the morning other than get into trouble.”

The city ordinance holds parents and guardians accountable for making sure their children do not violate the law. The parent or guardian can be fined up to $100 plus court costs and jailed for up to 30 days for each offense, according to the ordinance.

Minors who are accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult designated by their parent or guardian are not subject to the curfew. Also, minors who have their driver’s license are not subject to the ordinance if they are participating in or returning from lawful employment or a lawful athletic, educational, entertainment, religious or social events.

The young boys involved in vandalizing and stealing drinks and chips at Rocket Arena were ages 7, 11 and 13. Security cameras caught them entering the concession stand numerous times during the daytime hours to steal items. Despite their ages, they were apparently aware of the surveillance cameras because at various points they tried to cover their faces with shirts.

The boys were caught and their families were held accountable for restitution to the school for the items taken and damage to the locker rooms.