- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2023

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered the enforcement of a youth curfew in seven areas of the District in response to growing pressure from residents and Capitol Hill lawmakers who are fed up with a summer of robberies, carjackings and shootings.

Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela Smith, alongside the mayor at a public safety press conference Thursday, said officers will enforce the curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends.

“This is a targeted approach to deal with very specific areas of concern,” Ms. Bowser said.

During the curfew, children 16 and younger spotted by officers will be taken to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services center.

The juveniles will be held while officials contact their parents or guardians and offer rehabilitation services.

Juveniles have been major contributors to the city’s crime wave this year, particularly in robberies and carjackings that sometimes turn deadly.

Last month, a 14-year-old boy was accused in the fatal shooting of a construction worker during a robbery near Howard University.

The curfew will be enforced in designated areas around the District: Chinatown and Navy Yard, the U Street corridor in Northwest, Howard University and Banneker Recreation Center, 14th Street Northwest between Otis Place and Spring Road, the 4000 block of Georgia Avenue Northwest, the 4400 through 4600 blocks of Benning Road Southeast, and the 1300 block of Congress Street Southeast.

“Parents, we want you to know where your kids are overnight,” Chief Smith said. “Our goal isn’t to arrest more of our young people, but we want to ensure the safety of our youth here in the District of Columbia.”

A Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson told The Washington Times after the press conference that official enforcement of the curfew will begin on Sept. 1.

Chief Smith said 103 juveniles were arrested from July 24 through Aug. 8, and 31 have been detained pending legal proceedings.

The D.C. Council passed emergency legislation last month giving judges greater latitude to jail juveniles awaiting trial on violent crimes. The temporary law will expire in October.

Ms. Bowser, her predecessors, and neighboring cities and counties have used curfews to control crime.

Prince George’s County, Maryland, resorted to a youth curfew last year. August was one of the county’s most violent months in decades.

A month later, Police Chief Malik Aziz reported that crime in Prince George’s dropped 13% overall and 20% during curfew hours. The county maintained its curfew through 2022.

A curfew in Baltimore from Memorial Day through Labor Day has been challenged as inconsequential.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced the curfew for children 16 and younger after two teens were shot in April near the Inner Harbor.

Juveniles spotted out beyond curfew are encouraged to go home or are offered a ride to a youth center where parents or guardians can pick them up. Only social workers and other non-police staff enforce the curfew.

A joint report from nonprofit journalism outfit The Marshall Project and the Baltimore Banner found that the curfew doesn’t address the youth crime problem because most juveniles commit violent crimes during the day.

Mr. Scott rejected the premise that the curfew was intended to rein in juvenile crime.

“Despite … members of the media making this about youth violence, we’ve never made it about youth violence,” Mr. Scott told WBAL-TV last month. “This is about connecting young people — especially vulnerable young people — to services and getting them where they need to be at night.”

The District has a nearly 30-year-old curfew on the books.

The Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 established a year-round curfew. Parents could be fined up to $500 and minors could be ordered to fulfill up to 25 hours of community service for breaking curfew.

Chris Geldart, a former D.C. deputy mayor for public safety, said last year that the city had no “widespread enforcement” of the curfew but added, “When it’s necessary to enforce for the protection of our youth, our MPD officers will do that.”

Violent crime in the District has made the city an outlier from other metropolitan areas.

Although New York, Los Angeles and Chicago reported spikes in homicides in 2020, violence has subsided to a noticeable degree.

The nation’s capital, meanwhile, has recorded 166 killings so far this year — a 27% increase since 2022. The District is on track to exceed 200 homicides for the third year in a row. The city hasn’t reached that grim milestone in two decades.

Ms. Bowser said people are bringing illegal firearms into the city and using deadly gunfire to settle arguments.

Ward 8 council member Trayon White proposed calling the D.C. National Guard to station armed, uniformed troops throughout the nation’s capital. The president has sole authority to approve the military deployment in the District, but Ms. Bowser hasn’t talked with federal partners about moving that idea forward.

“The National Guard don’t have police,” Ms. Bowser said. “They have some police officials, but that is not what they are primarily training for in the District.”

She said she appreciates that D.C. Council members want more officers on the streets, even though “I wish they had been more interested in police personnel for the last three years.”

Three House Republicans are attempting to wrangle the District’s violent crime problem by revoking the local government’s autonomy.

Rep. Andrew Ogles of Tennessee, Rep. Matthew Rosendale of Montana and Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida introduced a bill Tuesday that would repeal the Home Rule Act. The measure would remove the District’s mayor and council and give Congress control of the federal city.

“In the first 5 days of August, D.C. saw 13 homicides. The nation’s capital has been overrun with violent crime, drugs, theft, homelessness and riots,” Mr. Ogles said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “Congress needs to reclaim its constitutional authority and make our nation’s capital safe again.”

The bill is unlikely to pass, but Congress still has the final say on what legislation becomes law in the District.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers overturned a massive rewrite to the District’s criminal code this year. President Biden approved the resolution to overturn the code despite signaling he wouldn’t involve himself with the District’s governing process.

Ms. Bowser ordered a 15-day curfew in 2021 after supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

• Matt Delaney can be reached at mdelaney@washingtontimes.com.

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