The Charlotte City Council voted 9-1 Monday night to tighten the curfew, an effort pushed by Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon in the wake of an late-night uptown shooting in May that occurred after the Food Lion Speed Street celebration.
The current curfew is from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday and from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It applies to all children under 16; there are exceptions for children holding jobs and for those with an adult.
The new curfew is different based on age. For children 12 and under, the curfew will be 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week. For children who are 13, 14 and 15, the curfew will be 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week.
In addition, the adult who is responsible for a child must now be at least 21, instead of at least 18 in the current ordinance.
Cannon said he wanted a curfew for 16- and 17-year-olds, but the city’s hands were tied because the state of North Carolina requires them to be tried in the adult court system, making it difficult to classify them as juveniles.
“State law won’t allow us that flexibility,” said Cannon, a Democrat.
The new curfew will go into effect Dec. 15, in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Monday’s vote was the first significant change to the city curfew since it was implemented in 1994.
It’s unclear how vigorously the new curfew will be enforced.
There were 58 curfew violations across the city from June 2010 to May 2011, according to statistics provided to the Observer this summer. And the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Monday night that it mostly uses the curfew during special events.
“We don’t do random enforcement,” said Vicki Foster of the CMPD.
Democrat Michael Barnes voted against the new curfew in part because he said the current ordinance is rarely enforced.
Barnes said he would have supported the ordinance if it “had more teeth.” He said parents of children arrested for curfew violations can be required to take a court-ordered parenting class, but are rarely required to do so.
Cannon said CMPD chief Rodney Monroe supported the changes, and lobbied for the implementation to be moved from February to December. That would allow police to use the new curfew for New Year’s Eve.
Mayor Anthony Foxx said a more restrictive curfew won’t fix what he said are “deeper issues” with the city’s youth.
“As much as we have been talking about how to engage youth … the challenges are outrunning our efforts,” Foxx said.
In the May incident after the Speed Street festival, police made roughly 70 arrests. Thousands of teenagers flooded an area around the Charlotte Transportation Center uptown, and the CMPD struggled at times to contain the crowds.
A 22-year-old was shot and killed.
City staff has pointed to other similar-sized communities that have enacted “tiered” curfews based on age.
In Columbus, Ohio, for example, youths ages 13 to 17 are barred from public places between midnight to 4:30 a.m. each night, with some exceptions. Younger children must be in by one hour past sunset.
The curfew has been in effect for more than 30 years, but enforcement wasn’t really stepped up until 2008, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police. Weiner said the department has had issues in the past where they were unable to locate a child’s parents, and children were taken to children’s services and later a juvenile facility. Now, a local YMCA has offered to serve as a “holding place” for curfew violators until parents could be notified.
And while many communities have adopted curfews for juveniles over the years, they’re not everywhere. The city of Raleigh doesn’t have one, and there have been no sustained discussions about the issue, according to a spokeswoman.
Greensboro enacted a curfew last year, but only for its downtown business district. The policy was part of broader efforts to improve behavior in that part of town. The curfew was originally set to expire in December, but Assistant City Manager Michael Speedling said Greensboro staff want to recommend extending the policy.