FOR NOW, NIGHTTIME IS THE RIGHT TIME

by Gregg Lee

WEST NEW YORK, NJ- While we all bask in the glory of the House of Representatives overwhelming "Hyde"-whoopin', let's also celebrate one of the smaller but no less important victories in the continuing fight against the screwheads: Another oppressive city curfew may be biting the dust.

Hudson County jurist Martin Greenberg has ordered the town of West New York, New Jersey to cease enforcement of its curfew, pending a ruling on its constitutionality. The town's curfew was enacted in 1993, and basically states that no person under the age of 18 can be "in a public place" (read- "outside") between 10 PM and 6 AM, any night, without a guardian (read- "your folks have to escort you on dates.")

Judge Greenberg issued the injunction following an ACLU-filed lawsuit on behalf of two West New York teens that were actually arrested for violating curfew. Unfortunately for the two teens in question, their nocturnal activities didn't quite fall within the curfew's paper thin margin of exemption, which includes travel to and from work and travel to and from church and community sponsored activities. No, these teens were not only out after dark, but their activities surely warranted arrest and possibly caning and of course deportation. Were they loitering outside the 7-11? Spray painting "KO?N RULES" on the walls of the local Christian Science reading room? Selling crack? If only their crimes were as excusable! One was returning home from a movie. Give your stomach a minute to settle now - okay? The other one was - and it pains me to even type the words - the other one was travelling home after bringing a grandparent some cake. How West New York went over 300 years without a curfew is beyond me, these kids are out of control!

In a bold act of jurisprudence, Judge Greenberg doubts the town will be able to justify the curfew legally, stating it would be unlikely that West New York could show that "house confinement of all minors under age 18" was justifiable constitutionally.

And according to the Justice Policy Institute, it isn't justifiable logically or statistically either. A study of curfew enforcement and policy by the JPI in California showed that night curfews are mostly ineffective in reducing juvenile crime, which usually occurs during the late afternoon hours. The illogical ramifications of the curfew aren't lost on Hackensack attorney David Kohane, who argues that the curfew "punishes these teenagers - for problems they haven't caused." Kohane, who is handling the case for the ACLU, presses that "putting everyone in West New York under house arrest would certainly reduce crime, but how many people are willing to pay that price?"

Kohane's point, that kids have constitutional rights too, is well taken. Also of note is the fact that there are already laws against any of the crimes lawmakers are supposedly trying stop when implementing such draconian policies as youth curfews.

At this time, the township has yet to crawl into this century and make itself available via email. Perhaps they should re-prioritize - something along the lines of "establishing contact with constituents first - oppressing innocent kids last." You can, however, contact Mayor Albio Sires and the town commissioners via an HTML submission form at:

http://www.westnewyork.com/townhall/_townhall.asp

By mail: Administrative Offices
428 60th Street
West New York, NJ 07093-2231
By phone: 201 295-5200


You should also see what the Justice Policy Institute study says about curfews:

http://www.cjcj.org/jpi/curfew.html

And of course, if you live in New Jersey and have questions or complaints about a local curfew, contact your friends at the New Jersey ACLU:

Via web: http://www.aclu-nj.org/
By mail: Acting Executive Director: Kevin Keenan
Legal Director: Lenora Lapidus
35 Halsey Street
Suite 4B
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone:(973) 642-2084


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