Washington city officials are lengthening a nighttime curfew as they try to overcome a spike in crime that's been marked by a rise in juvenile arrests.
Beginning Monday, most juveniles could be taken into police custody if they are found on the streets of the nation's capital between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., seven days a week. The summer curfew used to begin at midnight.
"Too often, young people are becoming involved in violent crimes," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "This earlier curfew hour is necessary in order to protect them from becoming victims of crime or from becoming involved in crimes at night."
During the last week of June, 44 juveniles were arrested for serious crimes in the city. That number nearly doubled to 82 during the week ending July 22.
The earlier curfew was included in a package of initiatives passed by the D.C. Council on July 21. The city's legislative leaders amended Williams' curfew proposal to require five days advanced notice to members of the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions before enforcement.
The legislation also required posting of curfew details, including any mandated exceptions, on Web sites operated by the city and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
"We think that curfew laws are a serious infringement on the liberty of young people and their parents," Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS radio affiliate WTOP.
The curfew, which applies to those 16 years old and younger, replaces a midnight curfew in July and August that took effect in 1999. Williams said the earlier curfew will be in place through Aug. 30, but he has the authority to extend it.
During the rest of the year, the curfew began at 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and at midnight on weekends.
"While a curfew is no panacea, it's an important way to help our police keep the streets safe," said Williams. He cited Cleveland, Philadelphia, Denver and Santa Barbara, Calif., as cities where curfews are being used to encourage parents to take responsibility for their children's whereabouts.
"The ACLU doesn't say that any child who wants to be out at 2 in the morning has a right to be out there. What we say is that this is a family decision, a parental decision," argued Spitzer.
Young people accompanied by parents or responsible adults will still be allowed on the streets during curfew hours. Other exceptions include traveling on interstate highways through the city or between work and home. Young people are also allowed to be on the sidewalks in front of their own homes.
"It applies to everybody. If you're in the district and you're under 17, you can be held in violation whether you live here or not," said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a department spokesman.
Two juvenile holding facilities have been set up at schools and parents or guardians of children being held at one of the facilities will be asked to immediately to pick them up.
If the child is not picked up by 6 a.m., the child will be handed over to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.
Any parent that allows their child to violate the curfew law is subject to a fine of up to $500 or community service.
The crime-emergency legislation has also provided funding for police overtime, allowing commanders to schedule officers for six-day work weeks. That's expected to allow for deployment of about 300 additional officers a week for street duty.
As of Sunday, there were 21 homicides in the city for July.
"The crimes that the public is concerned about have not involved people for the most part of curfew age, have not occurred 10 p.m. and midnight," said Spitzer.