There is no reason for this type of law. It is only going to lead to abuse of people's constitutional rights and I can guarantee that the resulting racial profiling lawsuits will bankrupt the City. It is really scary when government believes that the best solution to crime is take away people's constitutional rights.
Curfew vote put on hold for now
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Last updated: Wednesday August 19, 2009, 6:26 AM
BY MEREDITH MANDELL
PATERSON – A citywide curfew proposed by the mayor’s office and hastily posted on the City Council’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting has been abruptly removed.
Council President Jeffery Jones said he took the ordinance off the agenda for review by the Public Safety Committee, and a new vote may be taken Sept. 1.
Jones said before the council meeting he didn’t understand the sudden justification for the ordinance because the shootings started back in March.
“Why are we doing it now? It’s ambiguous,” Jones said.
He said he was concerned that the ordinance could lead to racial profiling and fails to address the needs of the community.
“It doesn’t speak to the targeted group and how we’re going to pay for things like more police, recreation and human services.”
Mayor Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, who proposed the midnight-to-7 a.m. curfew across the city in response to a string of shootings, today said the ordinance is the best way to address what appeared to be a gang conflict. Two men have been shot to death this month alone, totaling six homicides in the city this year.
The mayor said, in a statement released by City Hall, that police officers have been directed to aggressively restrict criminal gang loitering, already prohibited by city ordinance.
Under the proposed curfew, residents would not be allowed to loiter or congregate outdoors overnight, although it doesn’t apply to people in transit, or to people waiting for roadside assistance or emergency medical services. The curfew would allow police to question people on the streets overnight. Curfew violators would face a fine of up to $2,000 and or up to 90 days in the Passaic County Jail.
Had the ordinance been adopted Tuesday, it still would have faced a second vote and a public hearing. The curfew would remain in effect for at least two months if adopted, officials said.
Council members initially voiced support for the ordinance in the wake of the violence, but some are now voicing doubts.
But Councilman Andre Sayegh, who said the ordinance should be more specific to younger people and he questioned the effectiveness of a curfew, saying that a beefed-up police gang unit, more recreational opportunities and better job training are the answers to crime prevention.
“You don’t prevent crime by telling people to stay home or stay inside,” Sayegh said.
Cities across the country have enacted curfews in response to waves of crime. But studies show that they have failed to be effective in part because police departments lack the resources to enforce them.
Michael Kenneth Reynolds, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida, conducted a 1995 study that examined the impact of a New Orleans juvenile curfew on reducing crime. Reynolds said his study and others like it have concluded that the curfew law failed to deter crime.
“It didn’t have any perceptible impact,” Reynolds said Tuesday.
Reynolds said similar studies have shown cities don’t have resources to put enough police on the street to enforce the curfew.
Paterson might be subject to legal challenges if it were to adopt a curfew ordinance.
State courts have treated curfew ordinances differently. The issue has been struck down in New Jersey, Washington State and California, but upheld in Texas and the District of Columbia.
In 2001, a New Jersey appellate court ruled a West New York curfew unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union has successfully challenged several juvenile curfews in West Orange and East Hanover.
In one case, a child who was driving his mother to her job and stopped at McDonalds to get something to eat, was arrested, said Ed Barocas, the ACLU of New Jersey’s Legal Director. The charges were ultimately withdrawn.
“The greatest danger if you make simply being out in public an offense,” said Ed Barocas, the ACLU of New Jersey’s legal director. “It makes it illegal that which under our American constitution and way a life is not illegal. It allows unfettered discretion of police officers to decide who they wish or not to arrest.”
Reach Meredith Mandell at 973-214-8300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.