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Oregon block watch members want city council to pass a curfew that would address juvenile crime.

Several expressed their concerns at a Safety Committee meeting last month. Vandalism, vehicle theft, and trespassing were just a few juvenile crimes they said were impacting their neighborhoods.

“We have repeated issues with juveniles,” said Lori Render, a block watch member. “We have groups of juveniles waking up sleeping residents, vehicles ransacked, teenager mischief, and juveniles cutting through residents’ properties. Oregon police are limited in what they can do or say without a juvenile curfew,” she said.

“Disruptive individuals come from surrounding towns and cities because there is currently no juvenile curfew in Oregon,” said Render. Juveniles congregate on street corners, in parks and residents’ yards, egging vehicles and houses, she added.

A juvenile curfew would discourage juveniles and adults from other communities from “entering our communities for the purpose of disruptive or illegal activities,” she said.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said he didn’t think a curfew is needed.

“A curfew ordinance is a major decision in a community. You really have to consider it very carefully,” he said.

Oregon, he added, is a “very safe community” with little crime.

“I looked at burglaries, theft of autos, types of nuisance crimes. The numbers were not only relatively low, but a majority of those - 70 percent of thefts of autos and 80 percent of burglaries - occurred during non curfew hours or daylight hours. I don’t want anyone to think that passing a curfew ordinance will make all those crimes go away. It’s not.”

Juveniles, he said, like to hang out at night, especially in the summer.

“We have a convenience store that’s open 24 hours a day at the corner of Starr and Wheeling, a very busy location, which attracts a lot of business, some of which are young people. I know it’s a concern of many of you - young people out on the street up to no good. It’s no different here than any other community in Ohio and elsewhere,” said Navarre.

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He was also concerned a curfew would keep people from wanting to move to Oregon.

“It could very well affect someone’s decision to move to Oregon. When they start looking in the community and see it has a curfew ordinance, it could steer someone to another community. That’s something you have to consider,” said Navarre.

The community might expect rigid enforcement of a curfew with “zero tolerance,” he added.

Unfortunately, the times when those young people are out are also the times when our officers are busy. On most nights, we only have three officers working the night shift. We have 28 square miles. If I tie up a single officer on a curfew arrest, they’re not simple arrests. I wish they were,” said Navarre. “When you put your hands on a juvenile, the officer pretty much owns that juvenile until he can deliver them to a parent or guardian or to the Juvenile Justice Center downtown. They’re not really interested in putting curfew violators in their facility. They like to manage their caseloads. That’s another consideration. It’s a tool that can only be used at the officers’ discretion and we simply don’t have the resources. We don’t need the resources. It would be great to have 10 officers working every night of the week. It’s a huge cost in terms of personnel and your income taxes. We do quite well with the numbers that we have. We have 45 sworn officers. Our detectives do an unbelievable job in solving crime.
In the four years I’ve been here, we haven’t had a single incident when someone was shot.”


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He praised the block watch organization, calling it another tool for fighting crime.

“You’re looking out for each other, showing concern. The fact you’re here tonight speaks volumes. I appreciate it. I don’t want to send the wrong message to you. I just want you to know that there are a lot of considerations you have to think about before we just go and pass a curfew.”

Sandra Tarjanyi, a block watch member, said the crime rate doesn’t have to be high “to have a juvenile problem.”

“That’s what the issue is,” she said.

The block watch group gathered over 700 signatures on a petition in support of a curfew, she said.

“A curfew will not eliminate all the juvenile crimes. That’s not the expectation of the Oregon block watch groups,” said Tarjanyi. “The goal is to give the Oregon police a tool to deal with juvenile issues when they surface. A curfew will reduce the number of juveniles hanging out and walking the streets.”

A man in the audience said police should exact a fine on parents of juveniles who are out in the middle of the night causing trouble.

“Maybe that would help,” he said.

City Administrator Mike Beazley said it wasn’t practical and was unenforceable.

“All of us love that idea when we hear it. It’s very impractical and almost impossible for cities to end up holding parents responsible. We can’t get away with it, much as we wish we could. We can hold the kids responsible, but we can’t hold the parents. That’s the challenge,” said Beazley.

Councilman Tim Zale, chairman of the Safety Committee, said the topic of a curfew would be discussed further at a meeting on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in Oregon council chambers.

 

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