Fayette County

Done with warnings, Lexington police can make parents pay if minors break new curfew

A Lexington Police Department Ford Police Interceptor cruiser
A Lexington Police Department Ford Police Interceptor cruiser Herald-Leader

Despite seven homicides in five weeks, police insist there is no correlation between Lexington’s string of violence and its enforcement of a strict new curfew policy for minors.

But the new midnight curfew was put in place with the welfare of the city’s youth in mind.

“The curfew is meant to keep them safe. You know what they say: Nothing good happens past midnight,” police Sgt. Jervis Middleton said. “The curfew is designed for their safety and to keep them from going out of the house to what may be happening.”

A 60-day trial run of the policy ended this week, and instead of warnings, officers will now issue citations when they deem it’s appropriate. Police spokesperson Brenna Angel said 45 warnings were issued during the trial period.

Officers recorded information on the minors and their parents in that 60-day period, but now the officers will call parents to the scene should a minor break the curfew policy, Middleton said. A $499 citation can be issued to parents.

Middleton wants parents to know it is their responsibility to be aware of where their children are.

“Ultimately, that’s their job and not the police department’s job,” he said. “A parent can’t stay up all night with their kid, but they can be aware of their children and know where they are at. We want to encourage parents to read the ordinance itself.”

The midnight curfew is in effect every night, which is preferred by police. Middleton said it was important for there to be a consistent time for the curfew to lessen confusion. The previous ordinance allowed minors to be out until 11 p.m. on weekdays but 1 a.m. on the weekends.

There are exceptions to the midnight curfew. Minors can be out if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or if they are returning home from work, school or a religious activity.

The previous 2-decade-old ordinance was only loosely enforced, with only 17 curfew citations issued from January 2015 to October 2016, according to a Herald-Leader open records request.

Last April, the Lexington Urban County Council voted 10 to 5 to change the ordinance. Now, police will use it.

“We put the notice on the parent and have them be held responsible and make sure they are aware their child can be in danger the later they are out,” Angel said. “They can be a victim and involved in something they shouldn’t be a part of.”