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Loitering in Waynesboro: Exploring ways to curb it

September 25, 2003

Three years after the Borough Council of Waynesboro, Pa., passed a youth curfew law, police there are stepping up their efforts to enforce it and deal with adult loiterers at the same time.

There are constitutional issues to be dealt with, for sure, but we support the effort. If downtown streets become a hangout for those with nothing else to do, it will only make it more difficult to attract new businesses and residents.

The new enforcement effort, which began earlier this month, is called Operation Broom Sweep. It was launched in response to Borough Council complaints about young people loitering in front of downtown businesses.

More than a dozen people were cited for violations, including loitering, littering, trespassing, curfew violations and riding bicycles, skateboards and scooters on the sidewalk.

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The chief of police said that in addition to those cited, 62 people, including a group of about a dozen, were asked to move along.

But although the borough council has surmounted the legal hurdles needed to pass a curfew law, borough officials see possible problems in trying to restrict adult loitering.

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger noted that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of free assembly, which could make enforcement difficult. Councilman Clint Barkdoll, an attorney, said that under Pennsylvania's crime code, loitering is a misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $2,500.

We suggest that borough officials contact the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, which has more than 100 years of experience in dealing with town-related issues. Surely, a local government has faced this problem previously and successfully worked its way through it.

In regard to the youth curfew, we share borough officials' concern about children under the age of 12 roaming the streets without parental supervision or permission. Children of that age who want to belong to a group are too easily led into mischief or worse.

As for older youths, it's still parents' responsibility to know where their children are and to provide them with some direction on how to spend their free time in a positive manner. Being on one's own for the first time can be exciting, but that experience shouldn't take place late at night on a downtown street.

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