Curfew changes: Legitimate events and guardianship on the table

Residents should expect further changes to Wapakoneta’s curfew law after a nearly two hour discussion on three principal sections of the city legislation.

After Wapakoneta City Council members adopted a change to the hours of enforcement at Wednesday’s council meeting, Health and Safety Committee members revisited the newly established curfew hours as well as expanded the discussion to address legitimate functions for teens to attend and the definition of parent and guardian. No formal recommendation was made for council consideration after Thursday’s meeting.

“After much deliberation, we identified three areas, I think, need clarified or simplified,” said Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who chairs the Health and Safety Committee. “We intend to make another change to the hours so the curfew hours are midnight to 5 a.m. at all times. We feel this will be easier to enforce and is a little more lenient in today’s 24(hour)-7(day) world.

“We also are going to broaden the permissible events to include school functions and athletic functions, and lastly we intend to amend the definition of who a guardian would be,” he told the Wapakoneta Daily News after Thursday’s meeting. “That is the last part and will require more deliberation.”

Finkelmeier and his fellow committee members, 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee and Councilor-at-large Steve Walter, met with Safety-Service Director Bill Rains and Wapakoneta Police Lt. Barry Truesdale. Area resident Tammy Hegemier, whose son was cited for a curfew violation this spring when he was 17, also attended the meeting to provide input.

Truesdale, sitting in for Police Chief Russ Hunlock, said police officers would like a more consistent policy to make the law easier to enforce. He objected to having different curfew hours for different or stratified age groups.

Finkelmeier, who collected curfew ordinances from area municipalities, noted cities and villages in Allen County as examples of municipalities with differing curfew ages and times. For example, Lima and many areas in Allen County have different hours for youths under the age of 13, for those 13 to 15 and those 16 and 17 as well as hours shifting between June 1 and Sept. 1 and the rest of the calendar year.

Committee members agreed to make curfew hours more uniform by having it start at midnight every day, regardless if it is during the week or weekend and if school is or is not in session.

This would change an ordinance adopted Wednesday by councilors to eliminate one hour from the curfew times, changing the morning time from 6 a.m. to 5 a.m. so Sunday through Thursday the hours are 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m. instead of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and midnight to 6 a.m., respectively.

A suggestion to provide teens with one warning as offered by the village of New Bremen before they are in violation faced strong opposition. Truesdale said it would require additional paperwork for officers and would likely lead to uneven enforcement since dispatchers would have to know which teens had already been warned.

Truesdale explained as a 31-year veteran of the force that he often uses his discretion and warns first-time offenders. He orders them to go directly home, but if he catches them a second time that night he issues them a citation. He said new officers are likely to follow the letter of the law since they are new hires they are working during a probationary period and do not want their superiors to have any reason to not hire them full-time.

Committee members also deliberated permissible functions such as school functions and athletic events as well as church and religious events. They discussed at length the difference between school-related athletic functions and summer athletic functions and which would be allowed. Committee members decided that all school and athletic functions would be permitted.

Reviewing ordinances from several cities, members discussed parent and guardianship, Finkelmeier instructed Lee and Walter to contemplate the best ways to determine and define guardian so it covers parents, grandparents and other adults.

They would offer their suggestions at an upcoming, but yet unscheduled, committee meeting.

The councilor-at-large welcomed the lengthy discussions to hammer out a iron-clad piece of legislation.

“Any discussion when you amend the law deserves a thorough, thoughtful process whether it is sidewalk policy, curfew or what we pay to bury indigent persons because that is how government works,” Finkelmeier said, “thoughtful people trying to devise the best solution for everyone without unduly punishing any one individual or sub-group of the population.”