WALBRIDGE - A recent spate of minor vandalism led the village to adjust its youth curfew in November to keep more children indoors earlier.
Police Chief Deb North said youths under 16 must be inside by 10:30 p.m., while youths 16-17 must be in by 11 p.m. Previously, youths 11-and-under had to be indoors by 10:30 p.m., children 12 and 13 had to be in by 11 p.m., and ages 14-17 had to be in by 11:30 p.m.
“We were having a lot of vandalism of vehicles,” Chief North said. “A lot of little stuff, like front lawn ornaments being destroyed, removed, or placed in someone else's yard. It's small but we don't want it to escalate to anything bigger.”
Chief North said the police force will be flexible with school events and games that end after the curfew as long as the students are traveling from that event to home. She said students coming home or going to work will be another consideration.
“We aren't going to purposely look for kids,” Chief North said. “But the curfew is a tool for us. If we see a group of kids out a night, it gives us the ability to ask them questions.”
Chief North said an inline skating rink that recently opened on Main Street has attracted a crowd of local teenagers, but that facility closes at 10:30 p.m.
“If the curfew begins at 10:30 and the rink closes at 10:30, they know once they leave it's time to get home,” Chief North said. “The funny thing is that the rink is next to the police station. We'll give them time to get home but we hope [the curfew] will cut down on kids just hanging around.”
Walbridge mayor Robert Robson declined to comment on the curfew and referred all questions to Chief North. Council president Traci Taylor could not be reached for comment.
Jerry Eversman, who will start his second term on the village council in January, said council members were concerned about the quality of life in the village and made the right decision.
“There really isn't a lot productive a young person can do that late at night here,” said Mr. Eversman, a former police chief in Haskins and police officer in Walbridge. “As a law enforcement officer, I think it was a very responsible ordinance and I think it was just cleaned up so everyone could understand it.”
Mr. Eversman said the village has spent a lot of time focusing on positive programs and activities for youth, pointing to the summer baseball program as well as the new skating rink.
The National League of Cities reported in 2000 that 337 cities have youth curfews. Sixty-eight cities have instituted daytime curfews as well, where young people are expected to stay off the streets during school hours. Cities reported that curfews reduced assaults, burglaries, and graffiti.