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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Sylvania council panel rejects youth curfew

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania youth, fear no curfew. City officials have decided you don't misbehave enough to warrant one.

In a report submitted to a city council committee last week, Police Chief William Rhodus said the city doesn't have enough of the sort of juvenile crime a curfew would address -- such as criminal mischief or vandalism -- to warrant enacting one.

Council's safety committee accepted the report as well as its recommendation that no further action be taken.

"The chief did a very thorough job reviewing the juvenile issues for the last six months," Mary Westphal, the committee's chairman, said afterward. "There is no need to implement a curfew."

Chief Rhodus said last week, "It's basically what I expected. I did not expect to see a great increase in criminal damaging and vandalism."

But Janice Arkebauer, the Gillcrest Road resident who late last summer asked city council to consider a "reasonable curfew," said the true test will arrive with warmer weather.

"Obviously there's less vandalism in the winter than in the summer," said Mrs. Arkebauer, whose proposal was spurred by an incident last summer in which youths wrote naughty words on her garage in crayon and smashed light bulbs from outdoor fixtures.

She maintained that a curfew would give authorities -- and parents -- a tool to keep juvenile troublemakers off the streets late at night.

"Parents need to be responsible for their children," she said before expressing disappointment with the council committee's decision: "If the vandalism were to occur at one of their homes, then there would be a problem and they would handle it differently."

Toledo and several of its suburbs have enacted curfews in recent years that, to varying degrees, forbid minors to be on the streets late at night unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, traveling home from work or adult-supervised activities, or responding to emergencies.

Mrs. Arkebauer suggested late last summer that Sylvania adopt something similar. City council referred the proposal to the safety committee, which in turn directed Chief Rhodus to monitor youth-related crime for six months and make a recommendation.

Between Sept. 7 and March 10, the chief reported last week, city police handled just one criminal damaging case involving a juvenile, out of 59 total juvenile arrests. During all of 2010, he said, the department arrested six juveniles for criminal damaging and seven for criminal mischief.

Others were apprehended but not arrested, including four boys discovered tampering with light bulbs at a home on Fox Hollow Court while police sought the youths involved in the vandalism at Mrs. Arkebauer's home. The apprehension led officers to two 14-year-olds with crayons. They confessed and were referred to the Sylvania Area Family Services youth-diversion program in lieu of being charged with criminal mischief and petty theft.

"The implementation of a juvenile curfew should be established to respond to a critical situation in one's community involving juveniles," Chief Rhodus wrote in the report. "The existence of a small amount of criminal mischief, criminal damaging, or vandalism reports does not warrant a juvenile curfew. We do not have a problem with juvenile crime. We have our share of criminal offenses committed by juveniles that any other community our size has."

Mrs. Westphal, meanwhile, noted that the crayon-writing at the Arkebauer residence occurred much earlier in the evening than would have been affected by any curfew.

"We'll continue to monitor the situation," Mayor Craig Stough said afterward. "It's not that we don't have any problems."

Much more common among Sylvania youth than vandalism arrests, Chief Rhodus' report found, are drug and alcohol cases.

Taken together, the city's 50 arrests for underage alcohol possession or consumption and 32 arrests of juveniles for drug abuse or paraphernalia possession accounted for nearly half of Sylvania's 168 juvenile arrests in 2010. The numbers were similar for the study period, with nine alcohol arrests and 17 drug arrests out of 59 total juvenile cases.

"We have a zero tolerance out here for drugs and alcohol with juveniles," Chief Rhodus said. The police department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and various Sylvania Community Action Team efforts demonstrate that "we're doing everything we can possibly do to minimize drug and alcohol abuse," he said.

And as for youthful vandalism, the chief said, police will keep their eyes open, curfew or no.

"We're actively and progressively out there in the neighborhoods all the time," he said.



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