Lynchburg City Council curfew for minors underway

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:47 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - A curfew will be in effect for people under 18 years old in Lynchburg for the next six months. City Council voted in favor of the ordinance 6-1 Tuesday night. This comes in the wake of children being killed in gunfire in the Hill City in the last three months, the most recent being Kingston Campbell.

The curfew is from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for anyone 17 years old or younger. Council spoke with Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison and Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema to iron out the details ahead of the vote.

Exceptions for the curfew are:

  • accompanied by a parent;
  • involved in an emergency;
  • engaged in an employment activity such as going to or returning from work;
  • on the sidewalk directly abutting their residence with a parent inside;
  • on an errand at the direction of a parent with permission in writing;
  • involved in interstate travel through, beginning or terminating in the City;
  • or exercising First Amendment rights, such as the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and the right of assembly.

More information can be found on the city’s website.

“The intent of this curfew is to try to keep them from committing crimes in our city, and we’re trying to save these teenagers. Really, ultimately, they don’t understand that, but that’s what we’re really trying to do here. We’re trying to save them from themselves, trying to save them from these gangs, trying to save them from committing crimes by taking the lives of other innocent people, which we’ve unfortunately seen happen recently,” said Mayor Stephanie Reed.

Harrison shared with council that this isn’t a permanent solution, but something they all hope will curb youth violence.

“This is just a tool, it’s not a cure-all; we know a number of other cities have curfews,” said Harrison.

Harrison also added that kids found in violation, with no previous criminal background, in most cases would not go before a judge. Instead, they would be referred to a program provided by the court system.

Council member Dr. Sterling Wilder raised the question of LPD’s focuses when it comes to enforcement of the curfew.

“Sometimes it’s more enforced in the low-income or impoverished community. What direction are we giving to our officers so it’s not targeting certain persons because of their skin color, just to make sure we’re being equal in this measuring tool,” said Wilder.

“We’re going to be focusing on actions of individuals, not necessarily on appearances or where they live or where they may be at,” responded Zuidema.

Wilder also asked if an extra ordinance to enforce is going to be a burden on LPD officers.

“Is it another ordinance for them to look at enforcing? Yes. But by enforcing that does it also potentially diminish other police work that they have to do? Yes. That’s a balance that we’ll certainly work through,” responded Zuidema.

The verbiage of the ordinance also came into play surrounding the words “may” and “shall” related to LPD officers potentially charging a minor in violation of the curfew which you can find below:

“Before taking any enforcement action hereunder, an officer shall make an immediate investigation for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the presence of a minor in a public place, motor vehicle and/or establishment within the City during curfew hours is in violation of this section. If such investigation reveals that the presence of such minor is in violation of this section, then the officer may charge the minor with a violation of this section and may issue a summons requiring the minor to appear in court (Ref. Va. Code § 16.1-260(H)(1)). Where required, the officer will release the minor to their parent(s).”

“What’s our purpose with the curfew if we say we’ll enforce it here but not there?” asked Vice Mayor Chris Faraldi.

“That was my recommendation to change shall to may. The original draft had shall; shall does not give an officer any discretion. Which means we will lock up and arrest every juvenile that is out between 11 and 5, period, if they are not within one of these exceptions. That is not what I think we need to be doing as a police department or as a community,” responded Zuidema.

Faraldi was the lone Council member to vote against the curfew.

“We’re about to vote on this without public comment, and it’s gonna impact thousands of families. I just think there’s constitutional issues, I think there’s lack of input from the public, I think there’s lack of effectiveness, efficacy, and rollout,” said Faraldi.

Council chose to leave the enforcement aspect at “may” and starting May 26 at 8 a.m. a violation of the curfew could lead to a class 4 misdemeanor for kids and parents, (who knowingly are allowing their children out after curfew), which could carry up to a $250 fine. The curfew will run until December 1.