May 10, 2015
By South Jersey Times Editorial Board
Dave LeMote wipes down a post clock at Electric Time Company, Inc. in Medfield, Mass., Friday, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Is it OK for teenagers — or even younger children — to be out wandering the streets of a town at 2 a.m.?
Anyone with any sense would say “no,” but not everyone agrees.
The New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union doesn’t like the idea of curfews.
“You don’t lose your right to freedom and liberty under the constitution simply because you are under 18,” Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU, told the Times. “Juvenile curfews are essentially lockdowns for persons under 18 for numerous hours of the day.”
The ACLU challenged the curfew law in the North Jersey town of Wanaque and had the courts overturn the ordinance last fall. In response, some towns, including Paulsboro, nixed curfew laws.
The ACLU believes municipal curfews aimed at minors not only removes the right of freedom for the children, but removes the right of parents to determine what is best for their kids.
But that’s just the problem — parents are not being responsible.
The unfortunate truth is that parents aren’t paying attention to where their children are or what they are doing. Or at what time they are doing it.
The parents themselves are setting poor examples through their own reckless behavior. And it’s guaranteed that those same parents, if told their child was caught in some act of mischief late at night, would offer the “my-child-would-never-do-anything-like-that” response.
There’s nothing good that can come of children out on the streets late at night. They can cause mischief or themselves be hurt or lured into the wrong crowds.
There need to be rules. If the parents won’t set them, towns must to protect the rights of their citizens who might be harmed by late-night teen marauders.
In many towns, police departments are short-staffed and already have enough problems caused by adults in the overnight hours to deal with. They don’t need to tend to roaming children.
When Paulsboro repealed its curfew law, residents were livid.
“It has been constant … everywhere we go we have residents asking when we are going to put a new ordinance in,” Paulsboro Police Chief Chris Wachter said.
Now the borough’s working to institute a reviewed ordinance that they believe will withstand any court test.
Salem City Police Chief John Pelura III, whose town still has curfew laws, sums up the situation the best:
“To me, a 12-, 13-, 14-year-old kid shouldn’t be hanging on the street corner at 1 a.m. It should be a parental responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen, but sometimes parents need a little coaxing from the government.”
Unfortunately, parents have failed, so laws must fill the void.