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Connellsville considers new curfew for juveniles

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 6:21 p.m.

A proposed ordinance to set forth a new curfew will be introduced to Connellsville City Council on Tuesday in hopes it will reduce crimes being committed by and against juveniles.

In the last few months, juveniles were involved in different violent crimes in the area — from the armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver to the assault and robbery of an elderly man in his own home.

Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln said the city needs to do something and review the city's curfew ordinance, which is 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The proposed ordinance sets the curfew for those under the age of 18 between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday or during school hours from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

With exceptions like being accompanied by a parent, being involved in an emergency, employment or other exceptions, it's unlawful for a minor to be in any public place or inside a vehicle or a business.

“This new curfew ordinance is a positive first step to help our police department stop juveniles from committing any more serious crimes in our city,” Lincoln said. “Also, it has more teeth to hold parents accountable for the actions of their kids.”

Any minor or parent who violates the ordinance can receive a non-traffic citation from city police and the minor could be taken into temporary custody and released to a parent or guardian.

The first offense brings a fine of $50; second offense, between $100 and $150; and third offense, between $150 and $200, with parents subjected to imprisonment for up to 90 days and minors entered into the juvenile court system. The fifth and subsequent offenses include a fine between $300 and $500, with the parents subjected to 90 days imprisonment and the minors entered into the juvenile court system.

Any business owner who knowingly allows minors to be at the business and violating curfew can be fined $50 and possibly 90 days in prison for the first offense; two or more offenses brings a fine of $300 with 90 days imprisonment.

“One of the provisions I really like is this ordinance gives our chief of police the discretion to extend the curfew if he feels it needs be, because of a sporting event or any other function in the city that would involve juveniles,” Lincoln said.

City Solicitor Tim Witt said curfew ordinances must be very carefully drafted to ensure they do not violate the constitutional rights of both the minors and the parents.

“With this ordinance, we've narrowly tailored the application and enforcement of the curfew to protect those rights while still providing for effective enforcement,” Witt said. “Naturally, the goal with this curfew ordinance is to address juvenile delinquency in order to protect both adult and juvenile residents.”

Lincoln said the proposed ordinance is fair and hopes council supports its passage.

Also scheduled on Tuesday, a representative with Advan Advertising LLC will ask council to approve a permit to build a 12-by-24-foot billboard at 228 N. Fourth St. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Lincoln said the proposed billboard would require council to amend its billboard ordinance. He added it will take more than one council meeting to approve.

“Plus, we definitely need to get the public's input on putting up this massive billboard structure close to our beautiful river park,” he said.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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