Valley Center Considers Stricter Curfew for Teenagers

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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In an effort to combat crime, Valley Center is considering a tougher curfew ordiance to keep teenagers off the street overnight.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit those under 18 from being out past 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on the weekends.

"It can make a big impact," Police Chief Mark Hephner said.

He says it could have a big impact because it's a big change from the current ordinance. The ordinance on the books only applies to kids under the age of 16 and allows them to be out until 11 p.m. every night.

"I think it would give us an extra tool to help make the community safer," Hephner said.

Many people in town agree.

"To me, the earlier the better," Valley Center's Jeff Martinez said.

As a father of four, Martinez is especially interested in a possible change. He remembers his days as a teenager.

"I don't know what I would have done if I wasn't playing sports. If I was just hanging out after school, I probably would have done stuff I shouldn't have been doing," Martinez said.

Now he has a teenager, a 15-year-old, of his own.

"I really don't want him out there when the sun is down, during the late hours of the night," Martinez said.

He says nothing good normally happens when kids are unaccompanied after dark.

"If the sun is down and it's 10 o'clock at night, your kids ought to be at home unless they have some kind of activity," Martinez said.

The Valley Center Police Department agrees. That's where this proposed ordinance has come from.

Police Chief Mark Hephner says the city has seen about 80 car burglaries, and numerous vandalism cases, during the past two years.

Seeing a problem, three Valley Center night patrol officers, Virginia Crice, Kevin Cole, and Greg Jackson, took initiative and did some research into those cases.

"(They found) of the folks we caught 80 percent were under the age of 18," Hephner said.

The officers compiled all of their research, which included how well stricter curfew laws have worked in other cities, and came up with the proposal.

The proposal sets the curfew for those age 18 or under at 11 p.m. from July 1st to August 31st, except Saturdays and Sundays when it would be 12:00 a.m.

From September 1st through June 30th, the curfew would be 10 p.m. except Fridays and Saturdays when it's 11 p.m.

There are exceptions including if a minor is accompanied by a parent or returning straight home from a job.

In addition to the change in age and time, the proposed ordinance would increase the fine for those who break curfew from a $5 minimum to $25.

"If my 15-year-old gets caught for curfew and the fine jumps three times of what it used to be I'm going to make sure I know where he's at more than before," Martinez said.

The proposal now goes for a second reading before city council members. They're scheduled to discuss it at their next meeting December 18th.

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