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Hancock considers curfew, loitering measures

January 12, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK — By the time warm weather arrives, there could be a new curfew for teens and a loitering ban for everyone in Hancock after the town council voted Wednesday night to tentatively approve two ordinances.

The four-member council voted unanimously on first reading to approve the proposed ordinances, which will be the subject of a public hearing during the council’s Feb. 8 meeting.

The town once had curfew and loitering ordinances on the books, but the previous curfew ordinance had a sunset provision and was allowed to lapse, and the loitering ordinance was rescinded because of constitutional concerns, Mayor Daniel Murphy said.

The curfew ordinance would require people younger than 18 to be in their homes between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on school nights and from midnight to 5 a.m. on weekends.

However, there are a number of exceptions, including juveniles returning from school- or church-sponsored activities; juveniles engaged in lawful employment or on errands with a parent’s written permission; or in emergencies.

“We do have a problem with vandalism at night,” Councilman Sinclair Hamilton said.

But the ordinance would allow police to use their judgment whether to hand out warnings or citations, he said.

“We do have a sensible police force that can use its discretion,” Hamilton said.

A first violation would result in a warning, followed by a $50 citation for a second offense, $150 for a third and $300 for a fourth, under the proposed ordinance.

Under the loitering ordinance, violations could carry fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

The ordinance would make it unlawful for anyone — adult or juveniles — to “loiter, loaf, wander, stand or remain idle” in such a way that it causes a breach of the peace, or a disturbance or annoyance to others.

The ordinance would also prohibit the obstruction of any street sidewalk or public place in a manner that impedes the passage of vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

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