After several meetings, an appointed task force has found that mandating a curfew for juveniles is neither necessary or feasible.
While a curfew for juveniles may aid parents with a home for their children, the city lacks a juvenile detention center and the budget for the “cumbersome” cost of additional police officers, the committee agreed Thursday.
The City of Columbus, which has a curfew both during the day and during evening hours, spends $110 a night to house a juvenile at its detention center, provided available space.
“Additionally, you are roughly looking at two hours at the minimum that an officer would be out of service,” police Capt. Frank Nichols wrote in a letter to Police Chief David Lindley after researching Lowndes County’s juvenile justice system. “This would include 30 minutes (for) one way transportation and at least 30 minutes (of) booking here in Starkville and at least 30 minutes trying to secure a judge’s signature.” Starkville has 53 sworn in police officers, while Columbus has 70.
To staff a detention center, which Starkville doesn’t have, the Starkville Police Department would need two additional police officers, each paid $40,000. The department would also have to fund additional transportation.
Mayor Parker Wiseman noted that Starkville’s juvenile burglary stats are very low, but Lindley said that those statistics also fluctuate, while Starkville’s closure and success rate on crimes is much higher than the national average.
“It takes a while to catch unknown perpetrators, and in the meantime they’re active,” said Lindley, who received juvenile crime reports from Hattiesburg and is still waiting on reports from other comparable cities such as Oxford.
Vice Mayor Sandra Sistrunk noted the difference in population between Hattiesburg and Starkville.
“But trends are very similar in both Hattiesburg and Starkville, even though they have a curfew and we do not,” she said.
“I doubt that our statistics may be at a level where curfew is the best way to handle what’s a perceived or real problem.”
Without offering a preference in the interest of objectivity, Paula Drungole, the youth court judge for Oktibbeha County, said the rates of crime for juveniles ages 17 and under are down.
“We still have a good grip on crime here, we have a good solve rate and we don’t have the some of the problems that other cities have — yet,” Lindley added. And, in the last three years, Starkville has increased its population by 3,000.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy Á. Perkins, who supports the idea of a curfew, said he will not speak out against the committee’s report, but would not support it with a vote.
“There’s nothing on the streets after midnight but trouble,” he said.
The task force committee was formed after local residents such as Dorothy Isaac repeatedly approached the board asking members to enact a city-wide curfew for evening hours.