Wildwood commissioners voted Monday to impose a curfew on children under age 18 as a crime reduction tool for police.
The curfew makes it illegal for unaccompanied children who are not emancipated or married to be in public places between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. weekdays and between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekends. Exceptions include children traveling through the city or going to or from a job.
“It’s more of a preventative,” said Police Chief Randy Parmer. “It’s just a tool just like the traffic stops.”
Parmer said officers have made 300 traffic stops and issued about 25 tickets this year in the Jackson Street area of the city’s west side, where residents complained last year about speeding cars, loud parties and vandalism. Teenagers were involved in a shooting there.
Residents have said the increased police presence has improved conditions.
Under the ordinance, police officers may stop anyone they suspect of violating the curfew and ask them to go home or escort them. A warning will be given for the first offense and parents may be fined $100 for each subsequent offense. Community service may be performed in lieu of the fine.
Approved on a 4-1 vote, the curfew did not come without controversy.
Commissioner Julian Green said he opposed the curfew because it could disproportionately affect African Americans. He said he would support a curfew, but only in emergency situations.
Green compared the curfew to New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, where 85 percent of those stopped were black.
“It’s going to affect those who are law-abiding,” he said. “This will not control the criminal element.”
Resident Charlie Strong said he didn’t oppose the curfew, but that a bi-racial citizen task force should been asked to develop it. He said the curfew should begin at 9 p.m., not 11 p.m.
But Mayor Ed Wolf said the ordinance required a review by the city attorney to ensure it met legal requirements.
“I don’t think we need to make it by a task force,” he said. “That’s why we’re elected.”
Wolf suggested that Strong and other residents review the ordinance and propose amendments if needed.
Commissioner Pamala Harrison-Bivens said she supported the ordinance, which holds parents responsible, but that the child violators also should face consequences.
“That child still needs to be held accountable,” she said. “We need to assign them to some community services.”