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Oxford moves forward with youth curfew ordinance

Youths 16 and under may soon need an approved reason to be on the streets of Oxford during school hours and after 10 p.m.

Oxford Police Chief Joey East presented a two-part curfew ordinance before the Oxford Board of Aldermen on Tuesday evening for a first reading.

The ordinance states that, if approved, it will be unlawful for minors under 17 years old to wandering around in public areas, including parks, roads, playground, eating places or other other public establishments during the hours of the day when school is in session unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or other adult person or for work purposes, medical appointments, has permission to leave school for lunch or be absent by from school and other exceptions listed in the ordinance.

The nighttime curfew limits youths from public areas between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless with an adult, for work, running errands directed by parents or guardians, attending an official school or church activity, going home from a sporting event, dance, movie or other place of entertainment or another approved exception.

“These laws aim to establish a safer community and to better protect minors from becoming victims of crime or becoming involved in delinquent behaviors,” East said. “We have teens on the Square late at night where there is adult entertainment, if you will, going on and it’s just not where they need to be.”

East said he’s been receiving calls from local businesses complaining that 20 or more teens are gathering outside of their business in the parking lot.

The first offense if found in violation is for the teen to be taken to the Oxford Police Department and their parents or guardian is contacted. Second violation the parent will be issued a citation for $50 which doubles for each additional violation up to $1,000.

Businesses that allow juveniles under 17 to “hang out” in a business after curfew will be fined $100 for the first offense; $200 for the second offense and so on, up to $1,000.

“We had a bunch of kids hanging out at 2 a.m. Recently and because we didn’t have a rule in place, there wasn’t much we could do,” East said. “There were burglaries in the area. These kids were carrying BB guns which look like firearms and could have led to a tragic incident.”

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the ordinance is not intended to “hound” teens but to keep them safe. She told the public that in the proposed 2018 budget, there is money for body cameras for each police officer so all discussions with the teens will be recorded.

There will be a public hearing on the ordinance during the Sept. 19 meeting of the Board of Aldermen at 5 p.m. at City Hall.