The Town of Ponoka should pass the current proposed bylaw (Bylaw No. 248-08) to implement a curfew for youth 16 years of age and under. The curfew is for the good of the community and the safety and well-being of all of the youth in town.
Curfews are not something that are new in society and according to the CBC date back to the ninth century when England’s Alfred the Great demanded people douse their fires and go home before the evening. William the Conqueror imposed a curfew 200 years later to keep the Saxon population from engaging in disorderly behaviour after the twilight hours. Also, during the American Civil War, curfews restricted the movement of slaves and free blacks in some southern states, a practice that continued until the late 1960s. Curfews fell out of place during the 1960s and 1970s in Canada. But reappeared in Canada starting in the late 1980s when some municipalities reintroduced the measure specifically targeted at teenagers.
Statistics Canada reported, in data released last year from 2006, Canada’s overall national crime rate, based on incidents reported to police, hit its lowest point in over 25 years in 2006, driven by a decline in non-violent crime. However, the youth crime rate increased for the first time since 2003. It includes all young persons ages 12 to 17 accused of committing a crime, whether they were formally charged by police or dealt with by other means, which could include a warning, caution or referral to a diversionary program. In 2006, 84 youths were accused of homicide, involving 54 victims, which was the highest since 1961. If you look at these statistics it might be hard to make the connection that staying out late could lead to a homicide but it has been proven more times than one that smaller crimes can and will eventual lead to larger crimes.
The biggest plus to implementing a bylaw like this is it gives the RCMP another tool to help protect our town and the safety of the youth of the community. RCMP members will be able to approach teens on the street late at night and ask them to go home. The bylaw does make provisions if a youth is coming home from work, a voluntary organization or an event that was supervised by an adult. So if there is a baseball tournament in the summer it would be reasonable that if the tournament finishes late they cool down after the game, help to clean up, put away equipment and head home. If an RCMP officer stops someone and they say they are coming home from the tournament the officer should inform them that they should be headed home. However, if a few hours later that same youth is out there might be other ramifications. It doesn’t make sense for youths as young as 10 or 12 years old to be out running the streets past midnight. This bylaw would help to insure that people who are out late are not causing vandalism or other trouble.
One very interesting stipulation included in this bylaw is item number 14, which states “The offender and parent/guardian who breaches any of the provisions of this bylaw shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a specified penalty of $100 in the case of the first offence and to a specified penalty of $200 in the case of a second or subsequent offence.” With this provision the bylaw puts the onus back on the parents. If their child is out after 11 p.m. it will not only be the child who will be reprimanded but the parent as well. Parents and guardians need to take responsibility of their children and ensure that they are safe. If this new bylaw is passed it will be a tool that the RCMP will be able to use and a tool that parents can use. When parents go over the rules of the house with teenagers they will be able to inform them that it is the law that they have to be home by 11 p.m.
Now there will always be people who will try to test the water, that is inevitable but the fact is it will be in place. For example the curfew that was recently put in place in Hobbema was violated 120 times over the last three months but the community says that it is working. Recently, speaking with chief Marvin Yellowbird he said that the streets seem a lot calmer at night and it is due to the curfew. It’s a crazy thought that people think it is cool to break the rules trying to be like James Dean the original rebel without a cause but it boils down to respect. If the rule is in place the youth of the community need to respect it.
If town council does pass this bylaw it will be beneficial for the town and will be a tool to help keep the streets safer and feeling safe in your community is vitally important.