2010-12-08 / News

City council considers ordinance for teen parties

By Elizabeth Billips lizbillips@yahoo.com

In the wake of the Nov. 21 murder of a 14-year-old, Waynesboro City Council is once again considering an ordinance that would make security officers mandatory at large gatherings.

“You can’t close your eyes and think this is not going to continue … you’ve got to put some guidelines down,” resident Bill Alston said, encouraging city officials to reexamine the regulations they considered back in 2006 when outof control parties resulted in injuries of several teens.

At Monday’s regular council meeting, city attorney Chris Dube said he would bring back the sample draft of an ordinance in use in another city and make modifications with the help of the police chief.

City council members indicated it would apply to unruly gatherings, especially those with large numbers of juveniles in attendance.

Chief Karl E. Allen and Major Mary Bennett both said the ordinance would help by virtue of giving them a heads-up about when and where parties are taking place. However, both made clear that most of the recent fights, including the one that led to the murder of 14-year-old John Preston Jr., occurred after the parties were dispersed.

“It’s not happening at the parties,” Major Bennett said. “It’s happening after the teenagers leave.”

Council member Portia Washington suggested some troubles could be deterred with a concerted effort to enforce the city’s curfew for children 17 and under. Under that ordinance, juveniles cannot be out after 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Violations come with a fine up to $1,000, and parents can be charged with failure to supervise their children.

However, since the meeting, several officers indicated they’d been discouraged in their efforts after city council members, which they did not name, took issue with citations they’d written to friends and relatives.

During the meeting, council members agreed that while a party ordinance and curfew are tools to prevent trouble, the responsibility rests with parents.

“People don’t seem to care anymore about their children … and we are in a sad situation,” councilman Bill Tinley said, in reference to the number of teens who were on the streets with guns well after curfew on the night of the murder. “There are adults who know their children are out after midnight and have guns.”

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Tangela Lakes, the mother of the murdered teen, talked to True Citizen reporters about backlash from the circumstances surrounding her son’s death and said she was trying to clear up “inaccurate information” initially released by police. Lakes said that while her son John had previously been in youth detention for possessing a gun, he was never on house arrest. “He was in YDC for twenty-one days,” Lakes said. “But he didn’t have any restrictions on him when he came home.” She also said information that the victim’s brother was serving time at a youth detention center for gun possession was untrue. “He was in YDC, but not for a gun.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

The public safety committee will discuss the ordinance during their Dec. 15 meeting, and city council will probably make a decision in early 2011. The ordinance is designed to target excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles, illegal parking, public drunkenness, public urination, service of alcohol to minors, fights, disturbances of the peace and littering.

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