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Hancock approves curfew, loitering law

March 14, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK — The Hancock Town Council voted Wednesday night to approve a curfew for teens and a loitering ordinance, both of which will go into effect in a matter of weeks.

Councilmen Tim Smith, Nigel Dardar and Dennis Hudson voted for the curfew ordinance with Councilman Sinclair Hamilton voting against it, Town Manager David Smith said after the meeting.

The council voted unanimously to approve the loitering ordinance, he said.

The curfew ordinance will require people under the age of 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, Mayor Daniel Murphy said at the beginning of a public hearing on the proposed ordinances.

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, the mayor 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 ordinance.

“It’s not just the long arm of the law reaching out for young people. The parents are involved, too,” Murphy said of the curfew fines.

“It’s long overdue,” said resident Frank Courtney, the only person to speak during the public hearing. “It should be 10 p.m.,” he said of the time juveniles should be home.

“Who wants to go to bed at night and listen to a kid going down the sidewalk on his skateboard at one or two in the morning?” Courtney asked the council.

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but the previous curfew ordinance had a sunset provision and was allowed to lapse, and the loitering ordinance was rescinded because of constitutional concerns, town officials said during discussions on the proposed measures at their January meeting.

The measures will be reviewed in a year, David Smith said. Both ordinances will take effect 45 days after passage, he said prior to the start of the meeting.

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

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

Violations of the ordinances are misdemeanors and would be handled through Washington County District Court, Police Chief T.J. Buskirk said.

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