Fayette County

Curfew in Lexington for those younger than 18 is now midnight

Curfew for those younger than 18 will move from 1 a.m. to midnight beginning Friday under changes to Lexington’s curfew ordinance passed Thursday night by the Lexington Urban County Council.

The council had been debating the changes to the curfew laws for several months.

The council voted 10 to 5 to approve the changes.

The Planning and Public Safety Committee originally recommended a 1 a.m. curfew all seven days. The current ordinance, which is more than two decades old, allows youths to stay out until 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and until 1 a.m. on weekends.

But during Thursday night’s meeting, several council members said moving the curfew to 1 a.m. during the week was too lenient. A motion to move the curfew to midnight for all seven days was approved 8-7.

Councilman Kevin Stinnett made the motion to move the curfew to midnight.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for any child to be out on the street past midnight,” Stinnett said. ‘It’s just unacceptable.”

Others agreed.

“We have 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds out at 1 a.m. It’s not just for 17-year-olds,” said Councilman Richard Moloney.

Others said the 1 a.m. curfew was decided by a work group that included Lexington police officers. Police said that having one curfew will make it easier to enforce.

“We’ve had a curfew for 1 a.m. for 20 years,” said Councilwoman Angela Evans. “We are going backwards.”

Lexington police Chief Mark Barnard said that police were looking for a consistent time for all seven days, and that whether it was midnight or 1 a.m. was up to the council.

“It’s consistency that we are looking for,” Barnard said. “We are experiencing a high number of juveniles in stolen vehicles.”

Under the changes passed Thursday, youths under 18 caught on Lexington streets between midnight and 5 a.m. would be in violation of the curfew. Police may take the juvenile home or tell him or her to go home. Parents could face a fine of up to $499.

The current ordinance gives 12 exceptions or reasons youths under 18 could be out past curfew. The changes remove four of those exceptions. One of the exceptions removed from the ordinance allowed teens to be on the sidewalk in front of their homes or a neighbor’s home past curfew. Police said that exception caused police problems, particularly in large apartment complexes.

Making the curfew consistent seven days a week will make it easier to enforce, city and police officials have told the council. Taking out some of the antiquated exceptions will also help, police said.

Youths are still allowed to be out past midnight for work, school or volunteer activities, or if they are with a parent, the ordinance says. It’s also OK for kids to be driving in cars.

The ordinance also retains a provision that says a parent cannot be cited for a curfew violation if the parent does not know the child is out.

The proposed changes come on the heels of a 15-year high of 24 homicides in 2016. Seven of the 24 victims were 18 or younger.

Citations for curfew violations are rarely if ever issued, a review of curfew violation data provided by Lexington police shows.

The Herald-Leader requested the number of curfew violations from January 2015 to October 2016 through an Open Records Act request. During that time, only 17 curfew citations were issued. The data show citations issued, but not the number of calls reporting curfew violations.

Those that voted against: Vice Mayor Steve Kay, Jake Gibbs, Jennifer Mossotti, Angela Evans and Bill Farmer Jr. Those who voted to approve: James Brown, Kathy Plomin, Susan Lamb, Richard Moloney, Kevin Stinnett, Jennifer Scutchfield, Fred Brown, Peggy Henson. Sasha Love Higgins, Amanda Bledsoe.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall