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St. Petersburg examines a teen curfew after officer's killing

ST. PETERSBURG — City teens might be more heavily scrutinized in the aftermath of the Feb. 21 shooting death of a St. Petersburg patrol officer.

Council member Karl Nurse is proposing an 11 p.m. curfew for anyone 16 or younger as a way to alert schools and law enforcement of wayward teens. Nurse said he was considering proposing a curfew for a long time, but the slaying of Officer David Crawford prompted him to propose it now. Police charged 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey with the killing.

Police say Lindsey has admitted to shooting Crawford, which occurred at about 10:30 p.m. on a Monday night. The curfew is intended to get authorities to notice teens like Lindsey, who had missed 42 days at Gibbs High School, before it's too late.

"My underlining goal is to force the school system, the social service system and the police to develop lines of communication," Nurse said. "It would help identify those kids who don't have responsible parents. If the parents don't care that the children aren't home in bed, that's an early warning sign."

Nurse plans to discuss his proposal at Thursday's City Council meeting. He's proposing curfew hours to extend from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights — school nights. Those picked up for violating the curfew would be taken home or to a center where parents could pick them up. At least in the first six months, no penalties or fines would be levied against offenders, Nurse said.

But he'll have to do some persuading, given recent local history of proposed curfews.

The St. Petersburg City Council rejected a curfew proposal in 2000.

In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court struck down teen curfews in Tampa and Pinellas Park as unconstitutional.

Still, one of the two St. Petersburg council members to support the curfew in 2000, Bill Foster, is now mayor. And he said he's open to discussing it.

"There's not a whole lot of good that can come with young people being on the streets late at night," Foster said. "It's not good for them, it's not good for the city. So it's a good idea for discussion. But it needs to be fully vetted by the public."

One issue that complicates a curfew is how to enforce it.

"It's a burden on the police department," said City Attorney John Wolfe. "It's time consuming and a lot of work."

Police can't take the children to jail. Instead, they would have to be taken to a recreation center. Police would also have to make sure they have the correct ages and don't corral teens older than 16 or those who have permission to work late at night.

"Is this the best use of police resources?" asked Council member Steve Kornell. "Would it be enforced in an equal manner, so that the curfew is enforced in all parts of the city? If there's a breakdown in the family, it won't get solved with a curfew."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg examines a teen curfew after officer's killing 03/31/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 3:34pm]
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