Moving up city curfew for minors needs more thought

Why? That’s our first reaction to consideration of an earlier curfew in the city of Williamsport for minors.

City Council’s public safety committee is talking about changing the hours that minors — those 17 and under — may be out in the city. Police would be permitted to use discretion when encountering youths who are out after 10 p.m. and consider if they have a legitimate reason to be out after curfew.

The curfew for minors in Williamsport stands at 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and has been in place since 2006. In reviewing the ordinance more recently, the suggestion was made to make it begin an hour earlier at 10 p.m.

The thinking is that is a more appropriate time and would give police time to assess situations, give warnings or take minors who are breaking the curfew law to their parents or guardians.

Let’s remember, not all youths out around the curfew time are looking to make trouble. There are many reasons why some might be out between 10 and 11 p.m. And city police records indicate fewer juvenile crimes last year than the year before.

City police reported 124 juvenile crimes between 2014 and 2017. Most of the incidents occurred in 2015, with police investigating 38 juvenile crime reports that year.

Police responded to 22 incidents last year, a 42-percent decrease from the prior year.

It’s commendable that the police want to “do better” and to continue to combat juvenile crime, but City Council also needs to consider the social equation and whether a stricter curfew will solve juvenile issues.

As our children grow through their teenage years and into adulthood, we need to give them more freedoms gradually and, with those freedoms, more responsibility so they will be prepared to enter the world away from the protective rules and watch of their parents. Sometimes that means staying out past 10 p.m. at the age of 17.

This needs to be a parental decision, whether to allow that young person to be out after 10 and to set their own curfews for the home.

We need, as a city, to make our young people feel that they are welcome and not a problem.

We want them to grow up and want to find jobs in this area, but why would they want to stay if they feel the community does not trust them?

Is 10 p.m. too restrictive? City Council thought so when it debated this issue in 2006 and passed the original ordinance setting the time at 11 p.m.

If there was a real juvenile crime wave going on, we might think differently, but at this point, we just don’t see it.

Yes, there have been crimes committed by juveniles. Kids make mistakes — they always have and always will — but before we tighten the reins on an entire generation of city residents, we should take a closer look at the facts to determine if there is a real need.