Some question the need for Quakertown's curfew Noisy teens in 2 developments prompted the vote.

Posted: July 13, 2006

Quakertown enacted a curfew on minors last month aimed primarily at noisy teens in two particular neighborhoods.

But the council president and some residents of the northern Bucks County borough question the need for the curfew and its effectiveness.

President Dennis Hallman was in the minority June 7 when the Borough Council voted, 5-2, for the ordinance.

The pro-curfew vote, he said, was "based on perceptions that people were frightened by youth just standing on the sidewalk, not . . . that they were threatening."

Quakertown joined Coatesville, Langhorne, West Chester and Philadelphia, among others, in establishing a curfew.

For anyone younger than 18, Quakertown's curfew tolls at 11 p.m. Sunday through Friday and at midnight Saturday. There are exemptions, such as for a minor accompanied by a parent or a guardian.

After a first warning, the penalty is a fine ranging from $25 to $300. The ordinance makes a business owner or operator who serves a minor as liable as a parent or guardian.

Though some residents are concerned about vandalism, Hallman said, "police statistics show that any problems that we've had have been from 3 o'clock to 8 o'clock at night, which a curfew wouldn't cover anyhow."

Besides, he said, "a number of people causing problems are older, and it wouldn't cover them, either."

The curfew was proposed by the only new member of the council, David Zaiser, a computer-support specialist elected in November.

Zaiser said the problem neighborhoods were the Independence Place development in the south end of town and the Cedar Grove development, from which he is moving, on the western edge.

"Loitering, skateboarders at 2 o'clock in the morning," had been bothering residents in his neighborhood for at least three years, he said.

"Most of the neighbors complained that they wanted to sleep at nights with their windows open, but weren't able to do that."

Zaiser had told police about noisemakers, but "there wasn't anything they were doing wrong." And he felt there was a limit to how often he could ask police to enforce the town's noise ordinance.

"They didn't have a reason to get the kids off the street" before the curfew, he said. "Now they do."

The council also solicited comments from business operators at a shopping center across from Borough Hall who, Zaiser said, told of after-dark loitering there.

The businesses that are open after dark did not respond to requests for comment. Signs show none is open after the curfew.

Zaiser's calls to police, he said, resulted in "two drug arrests on my corner."

Police Chief Scott McElree said that "there weren't a few large incidents" leading to the curfew. "It was just a general perception in the community.

"We do have some incidents of criminal mischief or disorderly conduct."

But, he said, "it's not that we had a sudden or drastic [event]. It's something that has been there and perceived as a lingering problem."

On June 22, McElree was at the third Borough Hall meeting of a small group planning events to interest teens - the first a concert Saturday by local bands at Memorial Park.

Four of the six adult residents at the meeting said they had not seen anything to indicate that Quakertown needed a curfew.

"I'm sorry to say I haven't seen anything on the street personally," said Maureen Montoney, a Quakertown School District secretary, who had taken her 11- and 13-year-old daughters to the session.

Speaking as a parent, Montoney said, "You're not going to address an issue with a curfew. Vandalism or acts in the evening require parental control."

Teenagers at a recent borough-sponsored day camp at Memorial Park said they had no problems with the curfew.

"I think it's fully understandable," said Jennifer Savage, 16. "I just got my license. I can only drive until 11 o'clock anyway.

"And parents should have their kids home by that time for safety."

Ashley Craddock, 16, like Savage a Quakertown High School senior in September, said, "I guess it's OK." But, she noted, some teens "like staying out late.

"Personally, I think it should be up to the parents," not to government officials, she said.

Added Kate Klinkert, 16: "I don't think it's logical for people to be walking around at that time of night. What are they doing?"

"In general, most of the kids in town are well-behaved," said psychologist Linda Pasqua-Blaisse, who lives in nearby Haycock Township. "They're just looking for a place to be together."

The larger question, she said, is "that we, not just in Quakertown but throughout our culture, need to create a change in the way that we include teenagers into our culture so that they can feel like they're contributing members of a community, and not outside."

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-345-7768 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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