In the wake of the recent Labor Day weekend during which five people died from gunfire, including a 16-year-old boy, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced that county police will more vigorously enforce a juvenile curfew law already in place.
Alsobrooks made the announcement during a press conference on Monday, Sept. 5 in Upper Marlboro at the Prince George’s County Police Department Headquarters. She would be joined by Police Chief Malik Aziz, Council Chair Calvin S. Hawkins II, Vice-Chair Council member Sydney J. Harrison, The Rev. Tony Lee and several other council members.
The curfew prohibits teenagers under 17 years old from being out in public between the hours of 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. on weeknights and between 11:59 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends. Teens must be accompanied by a parent or guardian if they venture out during the prohibited hours.
Parents and guardians will be notified by law enforcement officials if their children violate the curfew.
The curfew re-enforcement will begin on Sept. 9 and continue for at least the following 30 days. Even with the new policy, some county officials remain at odds on how the youth curfew law should be enforced.
Alsobrooks said there will be consequences for parental figures if their children are found in violation of the curfew.
“If a parent doesn’t respond or fails to respond regarding their child, the child will be released to social services,” the county executive said. “The county will also fine establishments that allow children to stay past curfew – including $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $250 for subsequent offenses.”
The reinforcement of the curfew comes at a time when 62 homicides have been reported in the county – still lower than the 84 recorded at the same time last year. But a disturbing number of those who have committed crimes include minors – some of whom have had prior run-ins with the police.
Alsobrooks said the time has come for people to be held accountable for the rash of violence in the county.
“Somebody has to take responsibility for the children and it’s not just police and the government,” Alsobrooks said.
Alsobrooks said the 24 murders in August, the deadliest month in the county’s history, signal a disturbing trend, noting that “before August, we were down 30% in homicides.”
She also said there have been 430 arrests of juveniles in the county, doubling the number last year.
“At this point, these kids don’t just need a hug, they need to be held accountable,” she said. “I know it’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s a fair question: Where are the parents? What are the aunties, where are the uncles and other family members who are responsible for them?”
Alsobrooks stressed her administration has implemented mental health and jobs programs to assist at-risk children and adults. She also emphasized the important role that both the police and the courts must play in reducing the surge of violence.
“There is a whole system at play here,” Alsobrooks said. “Something is not working. We are arresting and re-arresting the same children and adults. What is happening after their arrest?”
Differing Views on Curfew from Citizens
David Grogan, a Bowie State graduate, a former candidate for county sheriff and a career federal law enforcement official, said invoking a juvenile curfew remains a moot point.
“Maryland legislators determined long ago that a juvenile curfew is warranted,” he said. “Law enforcement agencies must not allow politics to conflict with social services agencies and impede their efforts to get back to basics of enforcing laws that are already on the books.”
Rudy Anthony, a single parent in Bowie and president of Prince George’s Young Democrats said the curfew on youth represents a sound decision but more needs to be done.
“The county executive has made a good first step in curbing the outrageous amount of violent crimes being committed by youth but a curfew is not enough,” he said. “Young people need to be engaged directly. Once upon a time the council had a youth and gang violence prevention task force which I believe was very successful.”
Ralph Cyrus, a party member of the Democratic Socialists of America in Prince George’s, said he’s heartbroken to see so many families go through the loss of loved ones.
“County leadership needs to be more proactive in addressing the root causes of violence, especially among our youth. However, feigning tears at a press conference and enacting punitive measures have not and will not be the solution. Studies have shown curfew measures do not decrease crime but [instead] mark youth populations for increased targeting by the police. In a majority-Black county, this is simply unacceptable.”
Sherman Hardy, a former candidate for county executive criticized the lack of resources needed to reduce violence.
“The system will do everything except provide resources to people and fix the root causes in our communities, especially in predominantly Black and brown communities,” he said.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, who did not join Alsobrooks on Monday, held a separate online news conference later that day. She said crime has reached a state of crisis in the county.
“We absolutely hold people accountable for serious crimes,” she said, adding that her office has a 98% conviction rate. “We are part of the justice system and we make recommendations but we are not the final say. Sometimes we disagree and we are upset with the decision of those in the justice system. But our system of justice only works if we all respect everyone’s role and we understand the law.”
WTOP reported Braveboy has asked Alsobrooks to convene a series of meetings with major stakeholders to address the county’s criminal justice system, similar to what former County Executive Rushern Baker III did in 2011.
“That is what leadership is about,” Braveboy said. “It’s not about pointing fingers.”
WI contributing writer Richard D. Elliott contributed to this report.