As summer ramps up, Middletown police took to Facebook last week to remind residents about its long-standing curfew for juveniles and their intention to enforce it.
“We are pushing the curfew again that we have from years ago,” said Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw.
The reason, he said, is simple — a large uptick in juvenile arrests this year in the city.
“Last year going into June we had 94 juvenile arrests,” Muterspaw said. “This year going into June they are up to 186. That is a huge mark up. There is a problem. Got to fix this.”
The chief said he was a patrol officer when the curfew was adopted. At the time, he said “cruising” and drag racing were popular past times on Middletown streets and in shopping center parking lots.
“The current officers, even though we have a curfew, don’t really enforce it because we don’t really push it,” Muterspaw said. “But now what we are seeing out at night is these young people, some are not doing anything wrong, some are … it is just an effective tool for use to stop them and see what they are doing and to get them home if necessary.”
Muterspaw said in recent months officers have seen juveniles outside bars in early morning hours, placing them in danger.
“It is for their safety too. It is dangerous. After midnight, nothing good happens for a juvenile, it just doesn’t. A lot of our shootings happen after midnight,” the chief said.
Other municipalities and townships in Butler County also have long-standing curfews, including Fairfield, Hamilton and Madison Twp.
Hamilton’s curfew has been on the books since 1975 and states: “No minor shall remain idle, wander, stroll or play in a public place either on foot or cruise about without a set destination in any vehicle in, about or upon any place in the city between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. Friday through Saturday.”
The wording may be a bit behind the times, but Sgt. Brian Robinson said officers do use it as a tool, especially if juveniles are repeat offenders and crimes have been occurring in a specific area.
Also, violators can been cited into county juvenile court as an unruly juvenile, though it is rarely necessary, he said.
“It is about getting them off the streets,” Robinson said, noting many times parents do not know the juveniles are out until they get a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
Robinson added: “There really is no reason for them to be out after midnight. There are no youth events going on after midnight.”
Last year in Fairfield, 20 juveniles were cited into juvenile court or placed in a diversion program for curfew violation, according to Police Chief Mike Dickey.
But most violations are handled with a warning, he said.
“The circumstances will dictate how the officer handles the call. A situation where a juvenile is just out and about might result in a warning and call to the parents,” Dickey said.
“Juveniles looking into cars in the middle of the night would result in a citation to juvenile court,” he said, adding that so far this year, there have been three citations.
Earlier this year Fairfield officers received a call of three juveniles looking through cars in an apartment complex. When officers arrived, the juveniles ran but were apprehended.
“In this case, the circumstances led officers to charge all with curfew violations,” Dickey said. The ordinance also requires that parents have a part. If a parent cannot keep their child home during curfew hours, the parent can be cited.
“Curfew is effective for juveniles who have no business out in the wee hours. And there are exemptions such as emergency or legitimate business directed by a parent,” Dickey said.
Some townships in Butler County also have curfews and sheriff’s deputies patrolling those areas are aware, said Butler County Sheriff’s Lt. Rick Bucheit.
“It is a good tool to have,” he said.
In 2014, 50 juveniles were cited into juvenile court for unruly/curfew violations and in 2015 there were 51. The large majority are boys, according to Butler County Juvenile Court records. In 2015, 39 boys were cited and 12 girls.
If a juvenile is adjudicated for the unruly/curfew offense, they can be placed on court monitoring that can include house arrest and community service as well as a monetary sanction, said Rob Clevenger, juvenile court administrator.
Muterspaw said ramping up curfew enforcement is not about citations, but safety and making parents aware of what their children are up to.
“We are trying to let parents know your kids can’t be out after a certain time,” Muterspaw said. “Know where your kids are. That is what this is about.”