Atlantic City, NJ (AP) – Struggling with a rise in juvenile delinquency, Atlantic City will soon sound sirens at 10 a.m. each night, marking the arrival of a juvenile curfew banning people under the age of 18 from being on the streets.
“It’s been a few weeks here in Atlantic City,” Mayor Marty Smalls said at a Boardwalk news conference on Thursday to announce the policy.
The move comes amid a series of violent incidents involving teens in Atlantic City, including the death of a boardwalk merchant who died in April after an altercation with two teenagers.
Earlier this week, a 16-year-old boy was charged with a gun and drug offense after a fight with his 19-year-old brother. Inside his apartment, police found two handguns, hollowed-out ammunition, more than five grams of cocaine and about two pounds (900 grams) of marijuana.
James Sarkos, office-in-charge of the city’s police department, said people under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian needed to take to the streets before the siren could sound. Once this is done, police officers are authorized to contact and question people under the age of 18 to determine their status.
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Violators of the curfew will be brought to the police headquarters and a parent or guardian will have to come to pick them up. This law is in effect since 2006.
Fines for repeated violations are up to $1,000 and must be paid by a parent or guardian.
Sarkos said the law makes exceptions for youths who attend school functions, or complete tasks assigned to them by a parent or guardian, provided they return home immediately after completing it.
Sarkos said minors on the streets after 10 pm are more likely to be victims of crime as well as engaging in criminal activities.
But he and Small said they realize that simply blowing the siren won’t stop crimes involving teens.
“We’re not kidding ourselves; we know there are going to be violations,” he said.
And Smalls said parents need to take more responsibility for their children.
“The government does not take care of your children,” he said. “The government is here to help. The police at your house. You know what’s going on. Stop being able to because some of these little kids are paying the bills.”