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Curfew looks to limit juvenile crime

Curfew looks to limit juvenile crime

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Summer is fast-approaching for local schoolchildren, but the break from classes doesn't mean there will be a juvenile curfew hiatus until fall, Bryan police said.

Crime usually goes up in the summertime because children and teens don't have to worry about waking up early and readying for school, according to Bryan police Sgt. Jeff Peters.

"You'd be amazed at the ages of kids running the streets at 2, 3 and 4 in the morning. They think they can hang out all night because they don't have school the next day," Peters said. "If kids don't have a planned activity they're involved in during the summer, you have to be careful. They're kids. They aren't always going to make the best decisions."

Juvenile crime was down in 2006 over the previous year and authorities are hoping those numbers continue to fall.

Bryan police emphasized that they can't say for certain whether the drop can be attributed to a curfew, officials told the City Council last week.

Freddie Komar, assistant chief of police in Bryan, did credit the curfew with "changing what happens on the streets of Bryan after hours."

The ordinance, implemented in January 2006, established a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew for those 16 years old and younger. There were 502 juvenile arrests that first year, a decrease of more than 16 percent from 2005, officials said. Crimes that include theft, robbery and aggravated assault were down 9.4 percent.

"The men and women working the night shifts have done a tremendous job of trying to fairly and impartially enforce the curfew ordinance," Komar said. "Parents are usually appreciative that we're keeping an eye out on their kids."

Komar said the average resident who is not normally out between midnight and 5 a.m. would be shocked at the number of children who once ran the streets of Bryan. That number has been reduced, but there are still some violators.

Most juveniles in violation of the ordinance leave home without their parents ever knowing, he added.

"It's not uncommon when contacting a parent to find out that the parent didn't even know their kid was out. They think they're in bed asleep the whole time," Komar said. "The kids know they aren't supposed to be out."

The curfew acts as a tool for officers to control juveniles' activities. For example, the intersection of Boulevard and West 17th streets once was a notorious hangout for underage people, according to Bryan police Sgt. Jackie Maynard.

Between 5 and 15 juveniles would be in that area at a time, along with an older young adult who might have been involved in illegal activity, such as selling drugs, he said.

"Before the curfew, we could arrest the guy selling drugs, but we didn't have any tools to make the kids go home," Maynard said. "Now we can call their parents to come pick them up. You go to that corner tonight, and there won't be a crowd of kids there."

Maynard - former night shift supervisor and appointee to the Juvenile Curfew Review Committee - said the curfew was not designed to punish juveniles. It was designed to keep them safe and reunite them with their parents.

"That's the unique thing about the curfew," he said. "It creates a partnership between police and parents."

n Kristy Gillentine's e-mail address is kristy.gillentine@

theeagle.com.

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