Frederick police officials say they have been stymied in efforts to curb behavior of city skateboarders and bicyclists under 18 years old because judges will not enforce city laws.
But police want to fix that by making parents responsible for children who violate city laws that govern non-motorized, wheeled vehicles.
Damage to brickwork, railings and other property along Carroll Creek Linear Park and reckless cycling in the historic district and in the park, are among the behaviors that are subject to a municipal fine of $100.
Children older than 10 are prohibited from riding bikes on sidewalks in the historic district, but can ride bikes on Carroll Creek Linear Park as long as they are not negligent, according to city law.
But Frederick County District Court judges have told city police that they will not hear cases for skateboard and bicycle violations for people younger than 18, according to assistant city attorney Scott Waxter, thus making the law unenforceable.
Attempts to reach officials in Frederick County District Court were not successful.
Waxter and Police Chief Kim Dine gave the mayor and Board of Aldermen two options during the Dec. 28 workshop to reinstate police authority over juveniles who are negligently using non-motorized, wheeled vehicles like skateboards, bikes and scooters.
The first would make the infraction a misdemeanor, meaning any child who breaks the law would be turned over to the Department of Juvenile Services.
“They [Juvenile Services] would probably not be too excited about that,” Waxter said.
But police said they prefer option two, which would make parents or legal guardians responsible for the infraction by citing them with a municipal infraction, Dine said.
Under option two, police would be able to seize the skateboard or bike if the rider has violated city law, and parents or guardians would have to retrieve it. Police could then assess a $100 fine to the parent or guardian.
Police have responded to concerns along and around Carroll Creek Linear Park, Dine said, including making several arrests, enhancing lighting and patrols, and putting up surveillance cameras.
But he said their hands are tied when it comes to policing violations by juveniles on skateboards.
“The specific issue of skateboarding has left us without any tools. … This allows us to seize the skateboard or bicycle being used illegally and provide due process,” Dine said. “When the parent or caregiver comes in, they get cited. There are no issues for the court because we are citing them as adults.”
“If they don’t show up, they will lose the skateboard or bike. … The message is clear that that behavior is not allowed,” he said.
Alderman Karen L. Young (D) suggested Waxter ask a District Court judge to review the proposed ordinance. Waxter said he would, but did not expect a judge to render an opinion on the ordinance.
The aldermen agreed with Waxter and Dine’s preference, and said they have faith that police will exercise discretion in policing children. The proposal will have to come before the board again at a future meeting for further action.
“I have great confidence that we aren’t looking to sock it to the parents just to get a fine out of them,” said Alderman Michael O’Connor (D). “...Residents have been extraordinarily patient in waiting for something to happen.”