FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Its purpose is to keep kids off the streets, and out of harmsway. However, Indiana's curfew law is a tool unused by Fort Waynepolice officers.
In a 15 Finds Out investigation, NewsChannel 15 uncovered, thereis a state curfew law on the books, but many in the area wouldn'tknow it.
The state's curfew law is as follows:
Anyone younger than 18 has to be home by 11:00 pm.
Teens 15-17 have to be home by 1:00 am.
Kids 14 years and younger need to be home by 11:00 pm.
The curfew law as it exists is the result of years of tests inthe court of law. The law was challenged time and time again forviolating children's constitutional rights.
Fort Wayne Police Chief, Rusty York said while the curfew law isnot utilized in Fort Wayne, that wasn't always the case.
The state's curfew law was enforced in the Summit City until2004. That's when the Indiana Civil Liberties Union took the law tocourt, claiming it was too restrictive and violated constitutionalrights.
ICLU Legal Director, Ken Falk was very involved in the years ofchallenges to the law.
"Over the period of 3 years, there were these repeatedlitigations on the law as it went through various changes," Falksaid.
Those changes include allowing exceptions or excuses for beingout after curfew like attending a school sanctioned event, apolitical rally and other activities protected under the 1stAmendment.
According to Chief York, all of those changes make it hard toenforce a curfew. In fact, enforcement basically came to ahalt.
"Arrests of these juveniles went down dramatically, they almostended in 2004," York said.
NewsChannel 15 gathered statistics of curfew violations from thelast 8 years from the Allen County Juvenile Correctionsdepartment.
2003 - 443
2004 - 13
2005 - 1
2006 - 0
2007 - 0
Jan. - Oct. 2008 - 1
Allen County Prosecuting Attorney, Karen Richards said there'sno need for a curfew in Fort Wayne.
"There are so many defenses to the curfew law that, basicallyit's not enforced, there's not point to it... If teenagers arereally doing something that bad, they're going to be taken intocustody for whatever else they're doing, not for the curfewviolation," Richards said.
In Indianapolis, the curfew law is enforced regularly. MarionCounty officials use curfew as a means of educating young people onthe dangers of being out late.
The program is called EKG, Educating Kids about Gun Violence.Any children caught violating curfew gets the opportunity to choosebetween being prosecuted or attending a class about gunviolence.
Helen Marchal with the Marion County Prosecutor's office saidtargeting and educating curfew violators serves as a vital tool forcrime prevention.
"We feel these children are at risk for either becoming juvenileoffenders or becoming juvenile victims. Any successes that we getout of [the EKG program] are worth it for us," Marchal said.
NewsChannel 15 wanted to find out if there's any chance MarionCounty's education program can provide a model in the Fort Waynearea.
"It's a possibility, but when you ask those questions you alsohave to ask the next questions, who is going to be the fundingsource for that?" Karen Richards said.
Chief Rusty York agreed, "We've adjusted the way we enforce, butI think we're getting the same job done. I think we effectivelyaddress the issue of juvenile crime by addressing [a] specificcrime."
Since the curfew law is a state statute, the only changeindividual communities can make to the law is to increase thecurfew hours.
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