Juvenile curfew under consideration in Minden

By Josh Beavers

Even though there are more than four months left in the year, calls for police aid in Minden have more than doubled compared to 2019. Nearly 5,700 calls for service have already been made to police thus far this year. That number was one of numerous eye-opening and deeply unsettling statistics presented to the Minden City Council during a workshop Tuesday night.

For the same time period, arrests are up by more than 7 percent, shots fired are up by 122 percent, illegal weapons violations are up by 154 percent, illegal drug violations have increased by 195 percent, burglary is up by 24 percent, and assault and battery has increased by 42 percent.

These numbers, combined with the tragic recent murders of a 17 year old and a 3 year old in the city, have led the Minden Police Association to propose a curfew for local juveniles. Officer Jason Smith, president of the association, went before the Minden City Council to answer questions about the proposal.

District C Councilman Vincen Bradord said that most of the crimes were being committed by adults and questioned the need for a juvenile curfew.

Smith, who has spent his entire adult life in service (first for 15 years in the Armed Forces before becoming a peace officer), relayed several frightening stories to the council about his observations in Minden during outcalls. He spoke of numerous times he and other officers have been on calls late at night (or early in the morning) only to run into juveniles out on the streets in the dangerous areas.

“Two nine year olds riding bikes down the street at 2 a.m. going towards a crime scene,” he said about a recent outcall. “Nothing good is going to come out of that. We’ve got to do a better job. This doesn’t solve all our problems but it gives us one tool we can use to take a step forward.”

Some members of the City Council expressed concern over the proposal. District A councilman Wayne Edwards said he wants to curb crime as much as anyone but wanted to be certain the proposal was fair before voting on it. He said affected communities needed to look at the proposal. He also said he wanted the entire city to be policed and not just areas with higher crime rates.

Officer Smith spoke for more than an hour about the curfew and answered dozens of questions but said he would gladly meet with each and every council member one on one to answer more questions. He said the most important thing for the community is to take appropriate action soon so that the town’s undermanned police force, which is down a third of its officers, can better help keep citizens safe.

A look inside

The proposal states: “Curfew means a regulation to restrict outdoor activities of juveniles in the city between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. each day, except on Friday and Saturday, on which days the curfew shall be in force from 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.”

The document continues that it shall be unlawful for any juvenile:

to remain in or upon any public property in the city during the curfew hours

to remain in or upon the premises of a public business in the city during the curfew hours

Also it will be unlawful for a parent knowingly to permit or, by neglect, fail to exercise reasonable control, allow his juvenile child to be in or upon any public property or in or upon the premises of a public business within the city during the curfew hours.

It shall also be unlawful for any owner, operator, or employee of a public business to knowingly allow a juvenile to remain in or upon the premises of such public business within the city during curfew hours.

There are exceptions of course, including when a juvenile is accompanied by a parent or other adult person authorized by a parent. When authorized by a parent, the juvenile is attending a function or activity sponsored by an educational, religious or nonprofit organization that requires the juvenile to be in a public place.

Another exception: “When the juvenile is on an errand or specific business or activity directed or permitted by his parent or other adult authorized by a parent or where the juvenile is acting within the scope of legitimate employment or returning home from the errand, activity or employment without any detour or stop.”

Other exceptions include when the juvenile is involved in an emergency, when the owner of a public business is the sponsor or co-sponsor of an activity which requires or permits the juvenile to remain overnight on the premises of such business when authorized by a parent.

If adopted, the curfew would allow officers to direct the juvenile to proceed at once to his or her home or usual place of abode; or escort the juvenile to his or her home or usual place of abode; or take the juvenile into custody to the Minden Police Department.

If the parent, tutor, legal guardian or other adult person cannot be located or fails to come and take charge of the juvenile, the police department will take necessary action to protect the health and welfare of the child.

Juveniles and parents could be called before a judge and/or fined upwards of $500 for habitual violation of the proposed law.

There is similar language in the proposal for children during school time who should be in school and not on the street during the day.

The proposal was largely inspired by other nearby communities and drafted by police officials, city attorney Jimbo Yocom and City Court Judge Sherb Sentell.