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Massena to implement under-16 curfew

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MASSENA - A curfew in the village of Massena will make it illegal for anyone below the age of 16 to be out between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Massena Chief Timmy J. Currier said police will begin enforcing the new regulations on May 1.

There was a very similar curfew in place from 1969 until the mid-1990s, when a legal counsel for the village recommended that police stop enforcing the curfew due to conflicts with First Amendment rights. Revisions have been made to the law to clear up any conflicts with constitutional rights, including a provision that allows a parent to let their child be out between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for certain school, religious and community-oriented functions.

“It doesn’t take away a parent’s right to decide when their child may be out. If a parent feels it is all right for their child to be out after 10 p.m. it gives them that authority,” Mr. Currier said.

To legally permit a person under the age of 16 to be out after 10 p.m., one of his or her parents must give the child a signed and dated note stating the reason why they’re out. And while a parent could state a reason less understandable than, say, attending a school- or church-function, Mr. Currier said local law enforcement has very little power to determine whether the parent’s stated reason is good-enough cause to break curfew.

“That was one of the constitutional challenges to the law. It took a parent’s right away to parent their child. (The provision) gives a parent the broad power to decide when their child may be out,” Mr. Currier said.

A young person caught breaking the curfew will face 20 hours of community service, and repeat offenders could be petitioned into St. Lawrence County Family Court. Parents whose children are caught out after-curfew will face a fine of $50 for a first-time offense, $100 for a second offense, $250 for a third offense and subsequent offenses could be punishable by up to 15 days of jail time.

Mr. Currier said the fire station will sound its fire-whistle at 10 p.m. every night to make residents aware of the curfew. Mr. Currier remembers from his youth the days when the fire alarm sounded as a reminder that he had to get home.

“When I was a kid growing up, there was a curfew and that horn let you know if you weren’t home then it was time to get home,” Mr. Currier said.

Mayor James F. Hidy echoed similar sentiments, saying the curfew was a good rule he lived with growing up in Massena. “It worked when I was a kid growing up and I think if can for young people today,” Mr. Hidy said. “There’s no foreseeable reason for adolescents to be out after 10 o’clock. Several generations were raised with that curfew,” he noted.

Mr. Currier and Mr. Hidy see the curfew as “another tool” in local law enforcement’s arsenal toward combating crime and public nuisance. Mr. Currier said that increases in young persons committing misdemeanor crimes spurred the effort to reintroduce the curfew. These crimes were mostly related to criminal mischief, property damage, vandalism and violating the local noise ordinance.

“We felt it gave us another type of tool to fight crime,” Mr. Currier said.

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