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Proposed juvenile curfew law

TASHANTA SNYDER Special to the AmNews | 11/2/2011, 6:11 p.m.

Who will watch those who watch us? This is the question some Queens residents are asking when it comes to a proposed new curfew law.

The law was presented in 2004 by City Council Members Dennis Gallagher of Queens and James Oddo of Staten Island, and it is now back on the table again. If passed, it would restrict teens 17 years of age and younger from being outside between 12 and 6 a.m. If found outside at that time without a legal guardian or a valid reason to be out, teens could be required to perform 25 hours of community service for their first offense and 50 hours for their second.

"They won't target white areas, they'll target high-crime areas, which just happen to be Black neighborhoods. It's going to leave a potential for racism. Police presence alone should make it safer," said James Blocker, a pastor and NAACP member.

In recent years, a number of juvenile curfew laws have been challenged on the grounds that they are unconstitutional because police officers target juveniles based on race.

"Black teens will get more police abuse than they do now, which is a shame. We need cops to watch the cops," said Melvin Anderson, 32, a Queens resident.

But 24-hour business owners should beware. They could also feel the brunt of this curfew law if it passes. Business owners and their employees could be slapped with a fine of up to $250 if they allow minors to loiter after hours.

"It's not fair. What can we do about that?" the manager of an ATN Check Cashing location asked.

Some Queens residents are concerned about the danger involved in young people staying out late and think having a curfew would be a good idea. "I see young girls out by themselves at 1 in the morning," said a concerned Urena Grocery store cashier.

However, the parents and guardians of minors wouldn't totally be off the hook if this curfew law passes. They too could be hit with a fine of up to $75.

"I mean, that issue came up before when I was young," said a customer at a 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts. "I didn't understand why we needed a curfew then-the neighborhood wasn't that bad. But I understand why we need it now," she continued.

According to Find Law Blotter, whether juvenile curfew laws have any effect on crime is up for debate.