The executive of Prince George’s County, Maryland, recently announced a mandatory 30-day curfew for juveniles following three teenagers, a 1-year-old and six other people being shot during Labor Day weekend. This August was recorded as the single deadliest month in the county’s history.
Beginning Sept. 9, juveniles age 17 and younger are now required to be home between the hours of 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:59 p.m. through 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, unless they are accompanied by an adult. Consequences begin with a warning to the parent or guardian of the child that, if unanswered, will result in the child being released to the Department of Social Services. Parents and business owners who allow minors to remain on their property during the times of the curfew will face fines ranging from $50 to $250.
“While there are some who disagree with a 30-day curfew, I am responding to the residents of Prince George’s County who have asked what more can be done to protect their children. Our County is 84 percent Black and brown, which means we are working to protect children of color, including those who have been victims of violent crime at the hands of other children,” County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks said in a statement to The Hilltop.
So far this year, Alsobrooks said the Prince George’s County Police Department has made 430 juvenile arrests, which is more than double the arrests from this same time last year. Of those juvenile arrests, 84 were for carjackings and half of those arrested for those carjackings were under the age of 15 years old.
Jonathan De La Cruz founded the Thump Yard boxing club after he was the victim of gun violence and found himself determined to create a space where young people could work out their aggression in a way that did not involve guns, but boxing gloves. De La Cruz said he understands the curfew because of the increasing violence in his community, but he is worried that it could cause those kids who may not be involved in illegal activities to get mixed in with those who are.
“In these areas a lot of kids come from single-parent households and they are just hanging out, but because of the curfew a lot of them will now think they have to run from police,” he said. “More community programs, more sports and extracurriculars to keep them off the streets and to keep them busy is more effective than a curfew,” De La Cruz, who grew up in Miami where a similar curfew has been in place for over two decades, added.
In a press conference, Alsobrooks expressed her dismay at how young perpetrators of these carjackings and shootings are “armed and dangerous children” and called on parents to do more. Parents in the community are willing to comply with these newly enforced regulations if it means that they can keep making progress towards safer communities for their children. Some, like Stephanie Chew, agree with De La Cruz that more activities are needed for the youth.
“They need more activities and stuff, ones that are earlier in the daytime so that they can be home at a certain time,” Chew said as she dropped off her 12-year-old son in front of the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science.
Those that hesitate, such as LaDonna M. Smith, the owner of the PG Valor Basketball Team, are not in opposition of the curfew, but instead want to continue to see more community outreach and increased accessibility to team sports that allow kids to channel their energy into appropriate activities.
“I honestly don’t believe that it is going to be effective. A lot of these crimes appear to be happening during the daytime. Also the penalties are so minor that I really don’t see parents enforcing,” Smith said.“Think about if the parent was responsible and accountable, then their youth possibly would not have been out in the streets and committing crimes,” Smith added.
The county executive also announced the launching of The Alsobrooks Youth Leadership Institute for young people who want to learn more about local government and community engagement.
The yearlong institute will be offered to 27 young people to attend meetings, leadership conferences and community functions with other county leaders as voices of the community and youth advocates. The application is now open and will close on Oct. 14.
The program will be funded by the county as a part of the increased effort to give more youth experiences working within government; they will even have the chance to weigh in on legislation affecting young residents of the county.
With Prince George’s County reporting over 350 carjackings so far this year, local leaders are determined to find solutions that help young people have more lucrative opportunities that will deter them from crime, such as Alsobrooks’ Summer Passport Experience and her Summer Youth Jobs Program.
“It’s why the first measure our officers will take, if required, is to educate youth on the curfew and tell them to go home,” Executive Alsobrooks said in response to those concerned about negative interactions between youth and police that could result from this curfew.
While no solution seems to be apparent, residents are hopeful in any effort that is aimed at protecting the youth and decreasing crime in our communities.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett