Prince George’s curfew puts branches of government at odds
Prince George’s County Angela Alsobrooks (D) held a press conference on Labor Day to announce a controversial decision to step up enforcement of a youth curfew that begins Friday.
Alsobrooks, a native of Prince George’s, which is Maryland’s second largest jurisdiction, posted several statements this week on Twitter explaining her reasoning.
“While there are some who disagree with a 30-day curfew, I am responding to the residents of Prince George’s County who have asked what more can be done to protect their children,” she said. “The residents of our community deserve both freedom and justice…”
State law allows local governments authority to handle public safety matters.
In addition, a home rule charter permits counties local authority.
“Maryland law pretty clearly grants its home rule counties, including Prince George’s County, a great deal of deference and authority to handle local matters, including specifically maintaining the health and welfare of the county. That is the county’s job,” Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said in an email Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Alsobrooks announced a youth leadership institute for teenagers ages 14 to 17 in grades nine through 11.
Youth who apply for the Alsobrooks Youth Leadership Institute must attend seven of nine general meetings, three of five community events and obtain a minimum grade point average of 2.5.
Meanwhile, the county’s curfew requires youth 17 years and younger to be off the street between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:59 p.m. and 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Exceptions will include youth with an adult, coming from a job, or other circumstances.
Parents and guardians will first receive a warning. If a teenager gets caught without a valid reason, a parent will be fined $50. A second fine increases to $100 and subsequent offenses increase to $250.
The curfew will be in effect for 30 days, which Alsobrooks categorized as “a cooling off period.”
The curfew begins the same weekend as the county fair in Upper Marlboro, which hasn’t been held in-person for two years.
The county executive and Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz summarized some statistics to support the curfew decision, noting that two 15-year-old boys were shot at a convenience store Saturday. Police said one of the teenagers, De’Andre Johnson of neighboring Washington, D.C., died from his injuries.
August marked the deadliest month in the county’s history with 24 homicides.
“That number is simply unacceptable.” Aziz said Monday at a press conference with Alsobrooks, several County Council members and police supervisors.
Aziz said 438 juveniles have been arrested in Prince George’s so far this year, more than double the total from all of last year.
Carjackings remain the most frequent serious offense offense for juveniles, he said. Eighty-four juvenile arrests for carjacking have been made in the county so far this year. Aziz said about 15 of those juveniles have prior arrests for gun possession and three of them had been arrested for carrying guns four times.
County Council Chair Calvin Hawkins (D) had strong statements for those in the judicial branch.
“To some of you judges who are letting these individuals out,” he said. “You’re going to have to deal with this county council because we don’t want you presiding over those kinds of cases that are putting perpetrators on the street that are increasing the crime in our community.”
‘A publicity stunt’
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D) held a virtual press briefing Tuesday to address the curfew and rise in violence in the county.
Braveboy, who wasn’t invited to Monday’s press briefing with Alsobrooks, said county leaders should convene in a way similar to what former County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) had them do more than 10 years ago.
“Leadership is not about pointing fingers,” said Braveboy, also a county native. “Leadership is about figuring out how we work with everyone to make the system better.”
Local activist Qiana Johnson, who rarely agrees with Braveboy, supports the state’s attorney on this issue.
Johnson, executive director of Life After Release, which assists formerly and currently incarcerated individuals with a variety of services, said the curfew gives police freedom to harm Black youth.
“[Alsobrooks] is giving the brutal, racist police department a pass or call to go out in the community and be rogue,” Johnson said Thursday. “She is putting the youth at risk with this. This is a publicity stunt. This is not going to curtail any violence.”
Maryland’s and Prince George’s County’s public defender offices released a joint statement Wednesday opposing the curfew.
“Prince George’s County’s children do not need further arrest or incarceration that will result from a curfew,” said Melissa Pryce, the district’s public defender. “Our communities deserve a response that is reflective of the data and research, none of which suggest that punishing children for being outside late at night is effective.”