City to continue enforcing curfew

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Have a great summer, kids. And you better be home by midnight.

For the third straight year, Columbus is paying special attention to a decades-old curfew that requires 13- to 17-year-olds to be off the streets between midnight and 4:30 a.m. unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Children picked up by Columbus police might end up at Franklin County Children Services, face criminal charges and get hit with a $500 fine. The law also requires children 12 or younger to be off the streets within an hour after sunset.

Although police have brought in just dozens of youngsters during the first two years of stepped-up curfew enforcement, Mayor Michael B. Coleman credited the initiative for reducing crimes by and against kids in categories such as aggravated and sexual assault.

"I think it's taken hold because we see it out on the streets," he said. "When there are young people out past midnight, they put themselves in harm's way."

The Rev. Michael Reeves, pastor of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church on the East Side, said he takes nighttime drives to keep watch on the neighborhood around E. 5th Avenue and Stelzer Road. The area has been "relatively quiet" since stepped-up curfew enforcement began in 2008, he said.

When police pick up a child who's out after curfew, they'll first try to take the child home to a parent or guardian. If they can't locate an adult, police will take curfew violators to Children Services, which already has employees working overnight hours.

The curfew ordinance lists violation as a third-degree misdemeanor, which can result in 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Assistant Safety Director Seth Walker said it's unclear whether kids would be jailed, however, because the Juvenile Detention Center does not hold children for nonviolent misdemeanors.

Under a separate law, parents or guardians who let their children stay out past midnight could face charges as well. A parental-neglect citation carries the same potential penalties.

"This is not about making criminals out of our young people," said City Councilman Andrew J. Ginther, who leads the council's safety committee. "This is about protecting them."