By Tiffany Williams
The Town of Ponoka has prepared a draft of a curfew bylaw and a lot of people in town think that it is a good idea. The bylaw states that council deems it appropriate to protect the safety and health of children and to enact a curfew bylaw would accomplish those objectives. The bylaw would apply to anyone under 16 years of age who is out between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day.
Dennis Jones and Tim Rowland wrote a letter to the town on June 11 urging the council to consider a bylaw citing an increase of vandalism and other crimes in the community. Jones said that they made a similar appeal to council a few years ago and it was not brought in for a reading.
“Our main concern is for the young children not being supervised. When you look at this bylaw it is designed for the welfare of the kids,” said Jones. “It’s just trying to keep the kids of Ponoka out of trouble.”
He first became aware of the problems of youth on the streets a few years ago when he overheard a young male adult offering a young girl a beer past midnight at the playground by his house. He turned on his house lights and the kids immediately scattered.
Ponoka RCMP Sgt. Glenn Demaere thinks that the bylaw would give the RCMP another tool to address youth related issues in town.
“Anytime you add a sanction or consequence to an activity you will influence behaviour. At present, unless youth are committing an offence against an existing law or bylaw, we are not able to send them home,” said Demaere. “It is frustrating when we are getting complaints of youth involved in mischief-related activities, and be forced to chase them around, hoping to catch them ‘in the act’ so that you can deal with them.”
Charmine Enns, president of Citizen’s on Patrol, thinks that the bylaw is a good idea. She says that when there are a lot of youth on the street they often encounter the same groups of youth all over town, one end to the other at all hours.
“We have more cause to contact the RCMP members on those nights and we know, from monitoring the police radio, the police get a lot of related/suspicious person complaints on those nights as well,” said Enns. “For those youths that tend to get into trouble while out and about, this bylaw would hopefully ‘greatly reduce’ their opportunities to cause problems for our citizens or the town. I think this bylaw would help and it will hopefully make some parents/guardians take a more active interest in their children’s activities.”
Beth Reitz, the executive director of the Ponoka Youth Centre thinks a bylaw like this is great and that it is needed in the community.
She thinks the youth of the community may take offence with it but in the end it is for them.
“I’m sure the youth won’t like it at all, they will likely feel like it is an invasion on their freedom. However, it is also for their own good although they may not see that now,” said Reitz. “It will keep them safe and also keep them from doing things that are dangerous or illegal.”
Reitz thinks that a curfew bylaw would help to deter crime and would make a difference in the community. She is excited that the town is looking into it and hopes that people will see the value in it.
Currently there are 18 other communities in Alberta with a curfew bylaw and Jones thinks it will help to make the community safer.
“Even if it made a slight difference it’s well worth it. Even keeping one child safer we are trying to make a difference in our community,” said Jones. “You can’t fix everything with a law but at least we can make a positive improvement and take steps to protect the children of Ponoka.
To read the complete bylaw visit the Town of Ponoka website at www.ponoka.org/bylaws/curfewbylaw. The bylaw was given first reading on July 22 and the town is currently accepting verbal and written comments from the public until Aug. 15 at 4 p.m.