Harrington officials talk curfew, term limits

HARRINGTON — The late night activities of children under the age of 18 in Harrington were a source of contention for city council members during the workshop Monday, Feb. 1.

Both the city solicitor and police chief said no data is currently available referencing when or how many children in the city are out and about after dark.

“I just don’t have any of that data to say that juveniles are out at that time,” Police Chief Norman Barlow said.

Harrington City Councilmembers debated a curfew and term limits at its recent workshop Monday, Feb. 1. The Journal/Jennifer Antonik

Harrington City Councilmembers debated a curfew and term limits at its recent workshop Monday, Feb. 1. The Journal/Jennifer Antonik

In rebuttal, Mayor Anthony Moyer said, “We already know they are.”

City Solicitor William Pepper spoke in support of the chief’s comment, saying, “We have criminal mischief, but we don’t know when it occurs. We have no data that shows that.”

Contending the necessity of an established curfew, Mayor Moyer added that many community members have agreed with such a need in personal conversations with him or by speaking out at a previous town meeting.

Councilmember Eric Marquis said, “The people that did come out, spoke for it. The people who didn’t come out obviously didn’t care.”

Other municipalities, such as Milford and Dover, have curfews on the books, but they aren’t routinely enforced, according to Mr. Pepper.

Despite the controversy of such a measure, Chief Barlow says it could help officers enforce a more orderly community.

“A curfew’s going to allow you, if they violate it, to enforce it better. I’m all about positive tools,” he said at the meeting. “The officer would pick up the juvenile, call parents and take [him or her] to the station or home. That would be our goal: to deter them from being out and causing issues.”

Loitering and disorderly premise laws are currently on the books in Harrington, according to Vice Mayor Duane E. Bivans, which would render the same actions from police officers.

“I am against curfew in the measures that we’re doing,” he began. “A: We don’t have the data to support it. B. We don’t have an initiative giving our youth something to do. Laws already on the books would handle most of those situations. Why would you support curfew when there’s no data to support it?”

Vice Mayor Bivans said problems stem from boredom and hopes the city can help get excess energy out for the children before curfew hours hit.

“From 8-4, I’m working. [Parks & Recreation] is open at night for hockey and other activities. They can’t open it up for some type of open gym,” he asked.

Helping the younger members of the community take ownership of the city was another suggestion he offered, such as painting fire hydrants and otherwise actively engaging with the city.

Despite having no data to support claims of children participating in criminal mischief after dark, Mayor Moyer said he knew it was occurring.

“Go down to the people who live on Benjamin, ask them for proof. They’re the ones getting rocks thrown at their windows,” he said. “They told us why there’s not a lot of data. They get out of bed and to their cars at 6 o’ clock in the morning while the crime was committed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.”

Continuing, he added, “I don’t know what to call them. I call them hoodlums. Why is it my responsibility to let that kid play ball? How much is the tax payer in this city supposed to put out? At some point, 9 or 10 o’ clock at night… There’s not a whole lot for some to do. At 10 or 11 o’ clock at night, what does that have to do with whether we give these kids something to do up until 9 or 10 o’clock at night? They are out there vandalizing and putting themselves at risk of others taking advantage of them.”

The city of Harrington previously built a skateboard park due to parent requests for age appropriate entertainment. Officials say the cost was about $10,000, however the project was shut down because a lack of parental involvement.

“They had to have a skateboard park. We built it and paid for it at $10,000,” Mayor Moyer said. “The parents stood here before God and everybody else and said they’d take care of it. Three months later, it was trashed and there wasn’t a parent to be found. So we shut it down. There needs to be a whole lot more family involvement.”

Councilmembers discussed amending the proposed curfew to require children 18-years-old and under be off the streets by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

This ordinance will be brought to a vote during a first reading at the next regular council meeting, according to Mayor Moyer.

Should the curfew pass, children can request waivers due to employment, school and other valid reasons.

Term limits

The Harrington City Council also discussed a proposed resolution to put term limits in effect for councilmembers and the mayor. A vote on this resolution will also be made at the next council meeting.

Mayor Moyer hopes the resolution will be made active until state legislature has the final say as it requires a change to the charter.

“I would ask you to remember when you think about this that we did ask the people if they wanted it and 67 people showed up,” he said, noting that 59 of those voted to approve term limits.

Town hall meeting set

To discuss promoting growth in Harrington, councilmembers set a town hall meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting is geared towards residents, builders, contractors and developers. A quorum of councilmembers will be present.

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