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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Oregon City Council on Monday voted 5-2 against passing a curfew for minors following a lengthy discussion.

Members of the Oregon Block Watch Group met with city officials twice in the past to advocate the need for the curfew. Supporters wanted the measure to go before council for a vote. Many were at the meeting on Monday.

Councilwoman Sandy Bihn, who met with neighborhood groups while she campaigned for a seat on city council last year, has been in support of a curfew.

“A lot of big cities have them. The whole state of Michigan has a curfew,” she said. “So obviously, some governmental entities feel this is helpful. In the case here, people have been asking for this for a long time because there have been issues in their neighborhoods late at night.”

The city years ago discussed whether a curfew would help deter juvenile delinquency, but it never gained much support. Bihn recalled attending a meeting at that time on the matter.

“A couple of the older people said they were having problems with the kids and how they were taking things out of their yards,” said Bihn. They didn’t put Christmas decorations up anymore. I remember afterwards saying, `What time did that occur?’ and they said `2 or 3 in the morning.’ That’s something none of us would be comfortable with in terms of having kids prowling through the neighborhoods in the late hours of the night. I know personally, when you call [police] and ask for help, two things usually happen: Oftentimes we only have so many police officers out in the evening, and they can’t get there in time. The kids don’t stand still, they move. By the time police get there, they’re gone. This is a tool in the tool chest to help neighborhoods. If this is something that keeps kids in the house after midnight, then I think it’s worth having. It gives a message to the community that we do care about our neighborhoods, and kids shouldn’t be prowling the streets in the middle of the night.”

Various curfews
Police Chief Mike Navarre was opposed to the curfew. He said it would be different from curfews in neighboring communities.

“If Toledo’s and Northwood’s were the same, the most sensible thing to do is to adopt that [model}, since they are our neighbors to the west and to the south,” said Navarre. “But they’re not. They are nothing alike. An 11-year-old in Toledo can stay out until 11 p.m., whereas in Northwood, an 11-year-old must be in at 9 p.m. They are completely different.”

The proposed ordinance, he said, has different times and days of the week.

“We don’t have different times for different ages. We simply have midnight until 6 a.m. That’s unique. I don’t think there’s another ordinance out there like this,” he said.

Instead of a curfew, Navarre said it would be better for the public to call police when they see problems occurring in their neighborhoods.

He assured council and block watch members “that the police will respond to your needs and complaints.”

“We are putting our heads together and coming up with what we feel will be an effective response,” said Navarre. “I have met personally with many of the residents to try and identify those complaints. So have members of my staff. We always will urge you to call 911. Never hesitate to call. You’re not bothering us. We want you to call. And we’re going to make sure our dispatchers ask the right questions. Their job is to get the information from you and send the police out to investigate. That should happen in almost all incidences. When you’re calling because there are people out late at night and it seems they are up to no good, our job is to go out there and find out what that is. And we’ll do that. We’ll continue to meet with you, we’ll continue to attend the block watch meetings. What’s essential to our response is we have to identify what exactly the problem is in terms of the days of the week, times, and specific locations. And once we do that, I think we can put a plan together where I can assign extra officers above and beyond what we would send out on a normal shift to specifically address those problems that I think will prove very effective. It may cost us a few dollars in overtime, but that’s ok. That’s what the overtime budget is for, to address those specific problems.”

He said police have already identified some problems on Hollydale Avenue, west of Wheeling Street, and on Crestway, where residents have complained about heavy traffic heading to Circle K. Those areas, he noted, will get more attention.

“If need be, we will make sure those residents aren’t acting disorderly. We won’t tolerate loud stereos, loud talking, using profanity, hanging out on the street corner in the middle of the night. Those are the types of things you need to convey to us. Again, I urge you to call 911. Never hesitate to call. When in doubt, call. That’s what we’re out there for,” he said.


On ballot
Councilwoman Kathleen Pollauf said she struggled over how she would vote.

“I’ve talked to so many residents about this. I am not one to legislate parenting, but I am one to legislate peace and tranquility in the lives of people that live in this city. I really do feel strongly that something needs to be done to assist the officers,” she said.

“I don’t see it as taking any liberties away from parents,” she added. “I think about the people who wake up at 2 a.m. because someone is banging on their door. Or someone who works hard and puts Christmas decorations up only to wake up in the morning to see they’ve been torn down.”

She accompanied police on road patrols during the night twice to help her decide, she said. Even in temperatures dipping to 35 degrees, she saw kids “all over the place.”

“I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in the summertime.”

Without a curfew, Bihn said there are residents thinking about circulating a petition to get the measure on the ballot for voters to decide.

She said it might be a good idea to pass a temporary curfew to see if it helps.

“Otherwise, I don’t think this issue will go away,” she said, to applause from the audience.

Councilman Steve Hornyak said he’s rarely seen any legislative body repeal a law once it is passed.

“I think we have the opportunity with some of the plans Chief Navarre discussed to basically try to be proactive in our approach. We still have the ability to revisit this on a later date,” he said.

Councilman James Seaman, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said he has no reluctance to spend more funds for additional police presence.

“Additional squads are important in problem areas. Pinpoint the places and times, with extra personnel and overtime. Whatever it takes. I’m willing to support that,” said Seaman.

“With all due respect, sir, we are not asking for more money or more overtime,” said Tracy Spangler, of Sylvandale Avenue. “We’re simply asking for a tool…to be voted as an ordinance for officers to use. This is just insane to me - that you would ok overtime money that we’re not asking for. You and other members of council are making this out to be more than what it needs to be. We’re just asking for a simple curfew.”

Council President Dennis Walendzak said he was concerned a curfew would become permanent.

“Like Mr. Hornyak said, if you put something on, you’ll never take it off,” he said. “I understand the desire for a curfew. Every council member here has spoken with people throughout the community. Some people are in favor, some in opposition. No matter what decision we make, we will upset people. I have spoken to a number of people, and they would rather us not pass a curfew.”

Bihn suggested a specific time limit could be included in the ordinance so that it would not become permanent.

“On the issue of time, we could easily call this a pilot project, sunset it at the end of the year. If there is a `time certain’ in here, it expires and it doesn’t have to go on in perpetuity,” she said.

“You can make the point, also, where we can try things prior to putting a curfew on and see if they work, and if they don’t work, a curfew could be enacted,” said Walendzak.

The measure was defeated 5-2, with Bihn and Pollauf voting in favor of the curfew, and councilmen Hornyak, Seaman, Walendzak, Tim Zale, and Terry Reeves voting against it.

 

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