Thursday, December 1, 2011

Montgomery County Public Safety Committee Votes 2-0-1 to Oppose Youth Curfew Proposal

UPDATE: Here is a quick roundup of the latest MoCo curfew coverage -- 1) Washington Post: "Montgomery legislators may throw curfew into limbo," 2) Gazette: "Montgomery’s curfew proposal likely to fizzle," and 3) Kensington Patch: "Montgomery County Curfew Bill On Its Last Leg." 

BREAKING: The Montgomery County Council's Public Safety committee voted 2-0-1 to oppose County Executive Ike Leggett's controversial youth curfew proposal. The committee's three members include Councilmember Phil Andrews (Committee Chair), Roger Berliner (Council Vice President) and Marc Elrich. Mr. Andrews and Berliner voted to OPPOSE the curfew, and Mr. Elrich ABSTAINED. During the course of the committee meeting, the three Councilmembers conveyed the following views:

Phil Andrews: Noting that the curfew has a free speech exception, Mr. Andrews asked the police department whether a youth facing curfew enforcement could simply argue they were protesting the curfew in order to avoid application of the law. When the police representative testified affirmatively, Mr. Andrews stated that "the curfew is not worth the paper it is written on," because "it is a law that allows you to circumvent it by saying you oppose it."

Roger Berliner: The Council Vice President complained that the curfew proposal sends the incorrect message that Montgomery County is unsafe, when crime statistics prove otherwise. He proceeded to note that other jurisdictions imposing a curfew likely did so under very different circumstances than the outlier crimes facing the County Executive. Mr. Berliner stated that  "the curfew comes with high cost to the community's reputation" and that "we have enough data to say this is not who we are." He further added, "I regret that the County Executive feels so strongly about this and has invested so much personal time in this.... I think we need to just say we see it differently."

Marc Elrich: Noting continuing feelings of conflict over the bill, Mr. Elrich wanted to make one point: "Let's juts agree that you can just clever statistics to say anything." He also made an argument that unruly youths from outside Montgomery County may be coming to places like Silver Spring because of curfews in DC and Prince George's. NOTE: Maryland Juice points out that this idea has been planted by curfew proponents, who have been making (thus far) unsubstantiated claims that criminals are telling MoCo officials that they are coming here because of curfews in their cities. I have asked the County's Public Information Officer for verification of this claim on multiple occasions but they have yet to produce any additional information.

Mr. Elrich stated he planned to vote against the existing proposal should it come to the full nine-member Council next Tuesday, but that he may introduce two amendments: 1) revise the bill to allow the County Executive to impose a 120-day temporary "emergency" curfew, 2) have the curfew only apply to youths under age 16. He declined to introduce the amendments in the committee, as he was sure the other two members would vote them down.

Contact the Council: Remember, you can still write the County Council to oppose the curfew, but you should do so before next Tuesday, December 6th. Sending an email to will copy your message to all nine members of the County Council.

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