Police will begin a youth curfew crackdown in Carson in the next few weeks to alleviate what they say are high levels of fear about gang activity, drug dealing, drinking, loud music, fights and shootings.
Though Carson is not suffering from a crime wave, stricter curfew enforcement will ease widespread tensions about crime, according to the man behind the move, Capt. Ed Padias, commander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's station in Carson.
Acting on an urgency basis at the request of Padias, the City Council unanimously approved a measure Monday that narrowed the city's curfew ordinance to conform with recent court rulings.
Part of the city code since 1968, Carson's curfew ordinance has only been enforced "spasmodically," Padias said.
The revised curfew ordinance prohibits youths under 18 from being out after 10 p.m. except under special circumstances and holds parents responsible if their children do not obey the curfew. Sheriff's deputies, who police Carson, will enforce it.
Carson's emphasis on the curfew is in line with similar recent efforts nearby.
One month ago, Los Angeles began enforcing its 1902 curfew ordinance, concentrating on gang activity in the southern and central parts of the city. Compton began a tough new curfew policy aimed at reducing gang activity two months ago.
"The kids are feeling the heat," said Compton Sgt. Hourie Taylor, who is charge of the Compton street crime suppression unit. "They are remaining off the street and out of trouble. We found that pushing . . . the curfew situation really does put a dent in your juvenile crime."
The impetus for the new Carson policy originated with Padias, who arrived at the sheriff's station in Carson 3 1/2 months ago. "Since I've been assigned here to Carson, I have been attending some meetings of the Neighborhood Watch block captains," he said. "I have sensed a feeling of fear about gang activity and drugs and drinking and late hours, loud music in the streets, fights, loud talking, activity in the parks."
Enforcing the curfew "is a tool . . . to help alleviate those fears. We realize that it isn't just the juveniles under 18 that are involved in those activities but they are making a contribution," he said.
Padias said he was aware of the new Los Angeles curfew policy and decided, "Hey, we would try that here, too."
Review the Ordinance
Padias recently told Carson Community Safety Director Joe Medina, a former deputy district attorney, that deputies would soon begin enforcing Carson's curfew ordinance. Medina said he then asked the city attorney to review the ordinance.
City Atty. Glenn Watson said recent court rulings on curfews protected minors' constitutional rights of association and movement. He drafted revisions to the original ordinance incorporating those protections, and the Carson council Monday narrowed the scope of the original curfew ordinance in accordance with his recommendations.
Councilwoman Sylvia Muise described the new policy as something she "wanted to do for quite some time."
The original ordinance barred youths under 18 unaccompanied by their parents from being on city streets or parks from 10 p.m. until sunrise.
The revisions permit youths to be out if they are accompanied by their parents or by an adult authorized by a parent, or if they have written permission from their parents. They also are permitted to be out if they are on the way to a business, movie theater, religious facility or similar establishment. Both versions of the ordinance say that parents shall not permit their children to violate the curfew.
Possible penalties for parents and children are a $1,000 fine and a six-month jail sentence.
Medina said the city will publicize the new policy so that parents "will know why their kids are down at the station at 1 or 2 in the morning."
In 10 days to two weeks, enforcement will begin with warnings, Padias said. Subsequent violations will result in arrests, booking at the Carson sheriff's station and interviews with juvenile investigators.
"Kids will be brought in. Their parents will be called. They will be released to their parents and their parents will be . . . informed they will be liable if it continues," Padias said, adding that frequent offenders will be prosecuted.
'Urgency' Is Misleading
"It is going to be a lot of work. There are a lot of complexities when you take a juvenile into custody," he said. "I think the work is going to be worth some of the effort if it eases some of the tensions out there."
Padias said he had requested that the council take up the curfew ordinance revisions as an urgency matter not because of any major increase in youth crime but because he saw no reason to delay.
"The term . . . urgency might be a little misleading. . . . It sounds like, 'Hey, there is a crime wave going on here.' That would get the citizens unnecessarily excited. That was not my intent. I was going to enforce it anyway," he said.
Medina said he gave Padias a list of 15 locations, which he declined to specify, that have consistently generated citizen complaints about late-night problems.
One hangout for youth, particularly after Friday night Carson High football games, is the parking lot in front of the Boys supermarket at Avalon Boulevard and Carson Street.
Boys night manager George Henderson, a longtime observer of the scene, has said a curfew would reduce unruliness.
"It's a long time coming," he said. "I know what happens when kids hang out."
A stockroom clerk and cashier at the store, Gary Aquino, 18, did not like the idea.
"You mean . . . 18-year-olds can't stay out after 10 p.m.?" he asked incredulously.