Montgomery County’s teens can stay out as late as their parents let them.
Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council voted to table a proposed teen curfew and an alternative anti-loitering bill, choosing not to vote on legislation proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett in July.
The council voted 6-3 to table the curfew and 5-4 to table the loitering bill. For the legislation to be reconsidered, the council would need a majority vote to reintroduce them.
Leggett (D) called the council decision a “failure of leadership” in a statement Tuesday.
“I have heard that some council members are ‘afraid’ to vote for fear of offending one side or the other,” Leggett said in the statement. “I have heard others say, ‘Let’s wait until another late-night youth crime incident happens and then we’ll vote on it.’ That’s not leadership. That’s the opposite of leadership.”
The law would have prohibited teens younger than 18 from being out after 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The curfew would lift at 5 a.m. every day.
The initiative was sparked in part by a July 2 fight in Silver Spring that ended in a stabbing. Prior to the fight, dozens of young people were seen roaming downtown Silver Spring.
Leggett had pushed the council to make a decision on the curfew, complaining in a November memo that members were taking too long discussing the issue.
Councilmembers Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park and Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring voted against tabling the curfew law. Instead, they advocated an amendment that would have given the county executive authority to institute a 180-day teen curfew by executive order.
Rice, Floreen and Ervin said the measure would be one of many ways to ensure the safety of children.
“Why would we not then enact the curfew to complete the toolbox and protect our kids?” Rice said.
Councilmembers Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring, Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring and George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park voted in favor of tabling the curfew. Newly-elected Council President Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac also voted in favor of tabling.
Navarro said she was not convinced a curfew would be an effective way to curb teen crime.
“I still can’t get to a point where I can say yes to it,” she said. “If I had to vote on it, I’d say no.”
Leventhal said he did not think crime in the county was high enough to warrant a curfew.
“I think we need to understand that young people are part of the community and that to impose a significant restraint on their liberty should be done under really emergency circumstances,” he said. “I don’t sense that state of emergency.”
Andrews had proposed the anti-loitering bill in response to the curfew law this fall. The bill would have banned loitering that raised suspicion.
Andrews said he may revise the loitering bill for future discussion.
“I think it would be a useful tool,” he said. “I want to see if I can address concerns raised to make it as specific as possible.”
Both bills met mixed reaction with a series of public meetings throughout the summer and fall.
“To say it struck a nerve in the community would be an understatement,” Andrews said.
The East County and Upcounty Citizens Advisory Boards and the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce voted in favor of the curfew, while the Mid-County and Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Boards did not offer an opinion, citing too much division among their constituents. Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger supported the curfew.
“The community feels it is unwise,” Andrews said. “It is not needed at this time. The level of crime in Montgomery County does not justify a teen curfew.”