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Big Stone Gap approves curfew for minors

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By SHANANN GILLIAM, Post Staff Writer January 10, 2001

BIG STONE GAP - Minors under the age of 18 will now be required to abide by a curfew.

Big Stone Gap Town Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night that prohibits anyone under the age of 18 who is not in the custody of a parent or guardian to be out between midnight and 5 a.m. seven days a week.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Harold Kirk referred to a rash of recent burglaries that involved teenagers in explaining his vote for the curfew.

"I would like to say this ordinance should be passed and if you feel like it shouldn't then you need to talk to some of those senior citizens who were broken into," the mayor said.

Kirk emphasized Tuesday night that if the curfew became a question of harassment against minors, he would be the first to vote to rescind it.

The council heard from one local resident Tuesday who favors the curfew ordinance.

Oscar Bell told councilmen he wanted to again emphasize comments he made in favor of the curfew during last month's public hearing on the ordinance. Bell said he believes the police would act with discretion in questioning minors.

But opponents to the curfew law came out in force last month saying they believe it would violate a person's civil rights.

At the December's public hearing, Mike Mason expressed his concerns regarding the curfew.

Mason said he believes the ordinance would make criminals out of people, adding he thinks there were already ordinances in place that would take care of any problem.

"The cure is worse than the disease," Mason said, as he explained his feelings that the police department did not need to be put in the position of evaluating a juvenile's whereabouts.

Several residents stated at that same meeting that they believe the town is trying to take on the role of a parent by enforcing a regulated time for children to be home.

The curfew law says it will be unlawful for any parent, guardian or other adult having custody or control of any minor under 18 to permit, allow or encourage the minor to be present on any street, road, alley, avenue, park or other public place between the specified hours. Anyone found in violation of parental responsibility section of the curfew could be found guilty of a Class I misdemeanor.

Additionally the police will reserve the right to investigate any minor out between midnight and 5 a.m. to determine whether their presence is in violation of the curfew.

Exceptions to the curfew may be made in the case of a minor traveling to or from their place of employment after hours or if they are attending a religious service, a school sanctioned activity or participating in any assembly or expressive activity protected by the First Amendment.

According to curfew ordinance, minors who may be in violation of the ordinance may receive a summons, taken to his home or place of residence, released to his parents or guardians custody or taken to the intake division of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Minors found repeatedly violating the curfew ordinance could face stiff fines. The first offense would be a Class 4 misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $250, while a second offense would be a Class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. A third offense under the ordinance would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Coalfield.com 2001

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