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Not too long ago, 21-year-old ANC 8C03 candidate Larry T. Pretlow II hatched a plan for lowering crime in Ward 8. “We have a large issue with public safety,” he says. The 4.0-G.P.A. Strayer University student believes “a lot of our crime is from youth,” so he came up with a way of curtailing the problem and made it a part of his campaign platform. If elected, he would work to institute a ward-specific curfew, one that would require all minors in his neighborhood to be indoors by 8:30 p.m. While the D.C. Council recently voted down an attempt to push the city-wide curfew up to 10 p.m., Pretlow says his plan was well received by neighborhood activists.
“Mr. Pretlow—I am a resident in Ward 8 and I agree that a curfew is indeed needed to curtail crime,” supporter Brian Townes emailed Pretlow.”If the parents don’t care enough to have their kids in by a certain time then I guess the gov’t has to do it. I have seen first hand young kids hanging out in the streets well into the morning hours. They are loud and disrespectful and quite frankly, up to no good.Thank you for the job you are doing.”
By the time Pretlow got Townes’ fan mail, however, things had gotten complicated. A youth rights advocate, Pretlow happens to be president of the D.C. chapter of the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA). Nationally, NYRA has worked for changes like lowering the voting age to to 16 and changing drinking laws: “The National Youth Rights Association believes American youth alcohol policy should recognize the inevitability of alcohol consumption among youth and seek to reduce the harm of that alcohol use, rather than unrealistically try to keep young people from drinking at all,” says the organization’s Web site.
The association also wants to eliminate curfew laws entirely: “We believe such laws violate young people’s rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.” So Pretlow’s proposed 8:30 wind-down-time didn’t sit well with NYRA leaders and members. Pretlow, who’s running against long-time incumbent Mary Cuthbert decided to amend his position.
That is, if by “amend,” you mean, “completely abandon.” As of Wednesday, he’s no longer for an earlier curfew, or any curfew at all for Ward 8 youth willing to stick to the rules.The curfew law is unfair, he’s decided; it’s meant to prevent crime, but not all youths are criminals. “You’re punishing them [law-abiding youth] for something someone else has done,” Pretlow says, now that he’s seen the light.
He broke down his new stance in a reply to Townes:
“Thanks so much for your message. Yes, I agree that a curfew is needed to curtail crime in Ward 8, mainly “youth” crimes. As a 21 year-old I’m speaking from the side of the youth, but I’m also largely considering the side of all community members, such as yourself. Here’s my plan… I want to enforce a Limited-Curfew for Youth, such as using ‘curfew’ as a discipline measure for youth that have been ‘charged’ with crimes. Maybe this curfew could be lifted after a set number of volunteer hours have been completed. – The ‘Redemption Policy’. I also think that youth who have been suspended from school should also be on a more increased curfew. So, my position is that, all youth shouldn’t suffer the Curfew. Curfew is a result of youth crimes, but all youth do not commit crimes.”
Pretlow says it’s tough trying to satisfy both trustworthy youths and crime-fearful adults when it comes to the curfew law. Even since he wrote Townes back, he’s had to change his plan a little. Pretlow, who will likely be testifying at the Council’s July 10 hearing on youths, says he’s going to tell the council that there should be no curfew at all, but if the District has one, it shouldn’t just fall on young offenders, but adults, too. In his latest curfew plan, any District resident who has committed a crime would be subject to the time limits, not just youths. “If you’re going to have a curfew to prevent crime, shouldn’t that affect adults too?” Pretlow asks. Limits on criminals of all ages—maybe that’s the compromise Pretlow needs to get NYRA and the neighborhood NIMBYs on the same side.