July 23, 2010 9:42:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
With the exception of one member, the city of Starkville''s curfew task force is opposed to a proposed juvenile curfew and plans to make a recommendation against one next month to the seven-member Board of Aldermen.
The task force met Thursday in City Hall and agreed to send a recommendation to the city''s Board of Aldermen not to implement a juvenile curfew. Only task force member and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins was in favor of the hourly restrictions, saying he believes a midnight curfew should be implemented for people under 16 years of age.
"Anything on the books, in my opinion, would be good for the city of Starkville," Perkins said. "These kids need to be off the streets before midnight. They need to be home. There is nothing on the streets after midnight but trouble."
"Anything would be a start," he continued. "I would support (a curfew for people) under 16 or under 15 so it would not affect Mississippi State (students). If they hang out and are on the streets, they need to be at home. A curfew would be good. It would be in the best interest of the welfare of our city."
The remaining task force members, which included fellow aldermen Richard Corey and Sandra Sistrunk, among other local leaders, said they don''t believe a juvenile curfew is necessary.
Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley presented statistics to the task force which showed juveniles were charged with crimes only a few dozen times over the past three years.
Since 2008, juveniles were charged with less than 20 burglaries, less than 20 acts of vandalism and approximately 30 drug violations -- the three crimes with which juveniles most frequently engaged, according to the statistics provided by Lindley.
Sistrunk, who represents Ward 2, acknowledged a curfew might give parents "another tool" to help keep their children off the streets, but doesn''t believe crime statistics support the need for hourly restrictions. Corey, who represents Ward 4, felt the same way.
"Given that most of our juvenile crime statistics involve instances of crime in the single digits over the span of an entire year, the time, energy and cost of implementing this (curfew) ordinance seems like it could be better used," Corey said after the meeting.
Logistically, the Starkville Police Department would have to hire four new full-time officers to enforce a juvenile curfew, Lindley said. Combining salary, benefits and insurance, it would cost the city approximately $40,000 per additional officer, he said, plus new police cruisers.
Another challenge would be housing juveniles who are detained by police. Oktibbeha County does not have a juvenile detention facility, so youth detained by Starkville police for breaking curfew would be transported to the Lowndes County Juvenile Detention Center at a cost of $110 per night if a parent or guardian can''t be contacted to pick up the detained juvenile.
The trips to Lowndes County also would eat up valuable time Starkville police officers should be spending on city streets, Lindley said.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and city Chief Administrative Office Lynn Spruill now plan to draft a recommendation against a curfew for the city''s Board of Aldermen. Perkins vowed to honor the task force''s recommendation.