PG County curfew to curb violence begins on a quiet night

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Prince George officials began imposing a long-ignored curfew on Friday evening, seeking to allay growing concerns about violent crime – often committed by or targeting people aged 16 and under – by preventing teenagers in the county from linger outside in public places.

The curfew, which allows police to issue warnings and potentially fine parents of offenders up to $250, comes after the county recorded a record monthly homicide total in August and it continues to fight carjackings committed by minors. But it went into effect on a relatively calm night, especially after a Labor Day weekend in which four county people lost their lives to gun violence, including a 15-year-old DC resident. .

FAQ: What to know about the Prince George’s County Juvenile Curfew

County police — many of whom were stationed in their cruisers at malls dotted around the county — did not respond to any fatal shootings on Friday. In parts of Prince George visited by a team of reporters from the Washington Post, the mood was tense and uncertain. Many want the curfew to work, and most don’t know if it will.

“Someone is going to be shooting again,” said Dominic Parker, 14, standing in the parking lot of an apartment complex in District Heights as the midnight weekend curfew approached. “People could do it within a day.”

Parker was with 17-year-old friend Kevin Mason. They were talking to Jawanna Hardy and Prince Hamn, community activists who were trying to spread the word to keep young people indoors.

The parking lot was otherwise almost deserted. Parker and Mason had no intention of breaking curfew; they simply doubted it would end the gun violence that had become a regular feature of teenage life in places like Southeast Washington and parts of Prince George’s County.

Hardy grew up in Prince George’s. She works to end gun violence with several organizations — including County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks’ Hope in Action program — and could relate to teen skepticism. But the 30-day curfew, Hardy said, was at least a starting point.

“I don’t know what will end the violence,” she said. “But I know we can’t just sit idly by.”

Earlier that night, Hardy and Hamn had gone to Dave and Buster’s house in Capitol Heights. It’s a popular gathering spot for young people from Prince George’s and DC, in a mall whose parking lot was the scene of the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old last year. On Friday, however, few lingered in the crisp autumn air. Inside, in front of a new sign warning people of the curfew, a thin crowd ate and drank by the glow of arcade games and big-screen TVs.

It was just as quiet outside the boulevard of the Capital Center shopping center, in the Largo district, where two teenagers were shot dead last weekend in the parking lot of a cinema. A few people walked out of the theater on Friday as the last screenings of the evening wrapped up. Just before 12:30 p.m., a lone police car drove by, but no children were in sight.

Prince George’s County’s 11 p.m. curfew for children 16 and under went into effect on September 9. Teens and parents from Lanham, Maryland shared their thoughts. (Video: The Washington Post)

A livelier scene could be found earlier in the night at the Lanham Skate Center. Just before 11 p.m., dozens of people circled the rink on brightly colored lace-up skates under a pile of disco balls. Skating center assistant manager Nea Thompson, the facility’s self-proclaimed “mother hen,” said she’s seen many kids grow up at the rink. The curfew, she says, does them good.

“We kind of have to bring them back,” Thompson said. “We have to try something different so that these children understand that their life is precious.”

The problem of youth violence was highlighted on Friday as Greenbelt police were arrested a 13 year old boy about a shooting that occurred two days earlier. The minor was charged with attempted second-degree murder and other firearms offences, authorities said.

The curfew – which begins at 11:59 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and ends at 5 a.m. — has drawn mixed reactions since Alsobrooks announced it on Monday. County officials disagree on the wisdom of the idea and its practicality, while many curfew exceptions could complicate its application.

“Our focus this week is really just education,” police spokeswoman Christina Cotterman said, “so we’re starting with warnings.”

Politics even divides some families, along perhaps predictable lines. DC resident Finis Calhoun pulled up in the skate center parking lot around 11 p.m. on Friday to pick up her daughter, Erin Calhoun, and her daughter’s friend, Nylah Ward. Both are 15 years old and have been skating together since they were 4 years old.

Finis Calhoun said the curfew is a smart way to keep young people safe.

“The kids need to be home,” she said.

Teens say they have questions and wanted feedback on Prince George curfew

Her daughter wasn’t so sure. “I get it, from an adult perspective,” Erin said. “You want to make sure your kids are safe. But from the child’s perspective, it’s like withdrawing from our life experience.

Erin said adults should trust children more to know when to do the right thing when they’re out.

“Teens aren’t just generic kids all the time. We are young adults,” she said. “We know what the world is like, to some degree.”

Around 11:15 p.m. long before curfew descended the skate center doors were locked, the lights were off and the parking lot was empty.

Clarence Williams and Casey Parks contributed to this report.

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