Aldermen OK daytime curfew law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 12, 1999

The Natchez Board of Aldermen passed a daytime curfew Tuesday that restricts school-age children from being in public places within the city limits during school hours.

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said the ordinance is designed to keep children ages 6 to 16 – especially potential troublemakers – off the streets. &uot;We’re protecting our streets from juvenile crime,&uot; Huff said.

The daytime curfew is an expansion of the nighttime curfew ordinance, which restricts youth 17 and under from being on the streets from midnight to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday night through Thursday night.

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The system for punishment under the daytime curfew – which begins with the first violation – also holds parents responsible for their children’s actions.

Any juvenile who violates the ordinance more than twice will be send to Adams County Youth Court, according to the ordinance. Huff said the intention of the ordinance is also to get youth court and Department of Human Services involved earlier than they are under the truancy process, which sends juveniles to youth court after the 12th absence.

According to the ordinance, a child stopped during the day by police can get a written warning and an order to go home. If the child has already received a warning, or if police have reasonable grounds to believe the child has engaged in delinquent conduct, the child can be taken to the police department. When a child is taken to the police department, his or her parents will be called. If they don’t arrive within two hours, the child will be turned over to the custody of DHS.

On a second violation, police will send parents by certified mail a notice of violation. After that, a third curfew violation by the child results in a $25 fine for the parents. For each subsequent offense, the fine goes up $25.

&uot;(The curfew) is intended to continue to keep neglectful or careless parents up to a reasonable community standard of parental responsibility through an objective test,&uot; the ordinance reads.

Natchez-Adams Schools Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis, who worked with Huff on the curfew concept, said he supports the ordinance. He said it gives parents and students another incentive for students to come to school.

But local pediatrician Dr. David Timm called it &uot;very misguided.&uot;

&uot;With this ordinance, police have a right to stop you and force you to give them answers,&uot; he said. &uot;We don’t have any other ordinance where there’s a presumption of guilt.&uot;

Timm and his wife, Julie, homeschool their children.

Davis said police and school officials need to use common sense to ensure innocent students are not punished.

School attendance officers have a list of home schooled students

&uot;That’s why we’re going to have to go through this process very slowly in the beginning,&uot; he said, noting that school attendance officers know which students are homeschooled.