Earlier youth curfew in effect for school year
With students now back in class, the city of Pittsburgh is once again enforcing curfew regulations pertaining to the months when school is in session.
Those 16 years of age or younger must be off the streets no later than 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays or 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, one hour earlier than in the summer.
In November of 2002, new legislation was approved to correct what many felt to be a major flaw to the curfew program. In an effort lead by City Council President Gene Ricciardi, the council passed an amendment to the current law. The amendment gave police and other law enforcement officers the ability to bypass warning violators before taking any other action.
“Before, officers had to give minors a warning but now they can take them into custody after one offense,” said Amy Glabicki of the Pittsburgh Curfew Center.
“When a warning was given first, there might have already been a disturbance. Then, if the police had to be sent out for a second call, the curfew wasn't really working,” Ricciardi said.
Since the new regulations went into effect almost one year ago, the impact has been rather well received by law enforcement officials and local politicians. “There is still some loitering but there have been less violators overall,” Ricciardi added.
There are exceptions to the curfew rule as well. Recognizing the fact that many students may be coming home from a job or school event after the curfew hours go into effect, a provision has been made for such occasions.
But, any minor without a reasonable explanation for violating regulations, and who refuses to move on, will be taken to a curfew facility immediately. The child's parents or guardian will then be called to pick him or her up. And, in some cases, a fine of up to $300 may come with the violation.
According to District Justice Anna Marie Scharding, among the original problems leading to the curfew were loud and destructive behavior. “It was a way to try to curb vandalism and noise from happening throughout the night,” she said.
Although one of the reasons for a government-regulated curfew is the potential for crimes to be committed during the late night hours, there are several others as well.
“The curfew was initially started for the safety of the children,” said Zone 3 Crime Prevention Officer Dan McQuillan. “Many adults prey on kids that are out late at night. People can get hurt.”
One of the main obstacles for police will be enforcing the curfew after losing a significant part of the force due to budget cutbacks. McQuillan noted that with a limited force, some of the priority might have to be shifted elsewhere.
Despite this potential drawback, as of this time, efforts have not yet been affected. “We do have a car specifically used on curfew detail,” he said.
Most officials seem to be in agreement on one particular issue. Among the most important factors leading to the curfew law and recent changes is parental responsibility. “Keeping children in at night should not have to be up to the police or neighbors. It should be taken care of by the parents,” Scharding said.