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The View From Law Enforcement

June 14, 1997

MICHAEL BERG, Detective, L.A. County Sheriff's Department; oversees Juvenile Intervention Unit, Lost Hills-Malibu sheriff's station

The county and city curfew ordinances are very similar. They are all directed at juveniles and are in force between 10 p.m. and sunrise.

Deputies here use discretion to enforce these curfews and to maintain public safety--particularly the safety of the juveniles. It's an effective tool to cut down on juvenile crime; but at the same time it's a way to keep juveniles safe because they're often the victims of crime, particularly late at night.

The kids are usually very receptive to us. Oftentimes we just explain the ordinance and the purpose of it. They don't always get cited. We're not out to harass kids and we certainly don't target them strictly for curfew.

People don't usually have a problem with juveniles being out beyond curfew as long as they have a parentally approved purpose--going to or from a movie or a friend's house, or some school activity.

We really look for the kids who are out there without a purpose, sitting in the middle of the park at 2 or 3 in the morning. That's usually indicative that they have nothing to do, that they may be involved in, or becoming a victim of, criminal activities. If do we do have to cite a juvenile for curfew violation, we always take them home. Getting them off the street and seeing them safely home is really what the curfew is about. They will, however, have a juvenile court appearance.

Enforcing the curfew ordinance really doesn't put any extra burdens on the department. The deputies are out there patrolling anyway.

The department is leaning toward community policing and this is an aspect of that. We have a very active program with juveniles from the patrol deputies to the Juvenile Intervention Unit--which really gets involved with young people in every aspect of their lives. We work weekend nights to meet with the kids, interact with them and try to be proactive and preventative in our approach. I think the curfew is an extension of that.

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