Upper Uwchlan Considers Curfew

Posted: November 20, 1988

A rise in vandalism and other petty juvenile crimes is prompting Upper Uwchlan officials to consider adopting a series of tough new laws that, among other things, sets a curfew for teenagers and limits the operation of mini- bikes.

The ordinances, which are to be voted on at a Board of Supervisors meeting Dec. 5, were proposed first by John DeMarco, the township's highest ranking policeman.

Although the proposed laws have been written and are ready for debate and possible enactment by the supervisors, John Roughan, Upper Uwchlan's new township manager, said last week that he would discuss neither the measures themselves nor the rationale for them.

Roughan said he wanted to delay any discussion of the issue until after the Dec. 5 meeting. In an interview, DeMarco outlined his reasons for seeking the ordinances. Before elaborating, however, he conferred with Roughan and did not return a reporter's telephone call seeking more information.

Others within Upper Uwchlan's government, however, were not as reticent about talking about the proposed laws, the problems of juvenile crime and the rise in such crime, which some say is caused by increasing development in the township.

Supervisor Robert Koons called the proposals "nuisance ordinances geared to control people's behavior."

Koons said Upper Uwchlan needed such "courtesy-type laws" because the township was changing from a farming community to a suburban one and people were no longer courteous.

The four ordinances in question propose setting curfews at township parks and for minors under the age of 18, regulating the operation of mini-bikes and motorcycles on private property and regulating the burning of trash.

The proposed park curfew law requires a permit for anyone using the township's Hickory Park or any other municipally owned park or playground after dusk. Permits would be obtained from the township secretary.

The park ordinance also bans hunting and drinking alcoholic beverages in the park at all times.

The curfew for minors established the hours that juveniles may be outside their homes. The curfew would begin at 11 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. on weekdays and at 1 a.m. and end at 5 a.m. on weekends.

The ordinance will give township police the authority to stop any teenager who is out in public after the established curfew time, to ask them for identification and then to tell them to go home, officials said. Parents will be notified as a matter of policy.

The ordinance provides for certain exceptions, such as when minors are working or are on an errand with a parent's permission.

The mini-bike ordinance requires operators of mini-bikes, motorcycles and snowmobiles to obtain the property owners' written permission before riding on their land. The trash-burning ordinance permits burning only in an approved container between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. All fires must be attended.

DeMarco first suggested the ideas for the ordinances at a supervisors' meeting last summer. Since then, DeMarco has reviewed similar ordinances from other townships and then presented samples to the board. The supervisors passed them on to township solicitor John Good for preparation.

According to Koons, "all of them are tested, fairly well-written and specifically designed to fight problems."

Walter Styer, chairman of the supervisors, said the ordinances should help eliminate some of the problems. But he said: "The police have to have laws before they can enforce them."

Township officials pointed to a spate of problems that caused them to consider the new ordinances, including a general increase in vandalism and rowdy behavior.

Late-night parties with alcoholic beverages at Hickory Park have caused some safety hazards, such as broken bottles strewn around the ball field, Koons said.

Residents have reported incidents of teenagers stealing emblems from expensive cars and selling them as belt buckles. Police also have had to deal with teen vandalism in neighborhoods such as Cannon Woods, off Green Ridge Drive, and Black Horse Farms, on Krauser Road.

Koons said the curfew should help cut down on the number of burglaries in the township.

Concerns about liability in the event of accident and about property damage have triggered the ordinance regulating the use of motor vehicles on private property, officials said.

The supervisors have had numerous complaints from farmers who have had their cornfields beaten down and from residents who have had hedges damaged

from vehicles riding across their properties, the supervisors said.

Koons said that some problems had been caused by young people on mini-bikes taking shortcuts between developments.

Styer said the mini-bike ordinance would prevent riders from "abusing other people's property."

Upper Uwchlan officials say that untended fires, some of which have been set by builders to dispose of construction debris, had created a number of false alarms for the volunteer fire companies that serve the township. The frequency of false alarms has prompted complaints from the fire companies themselves, Koons said.

The ordinances, unlike subdivision and zoning ordinances, are required to be advertised only one time and only at least seven days before their adoption at a specified meeting.

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