Following the end of a monthslong youth curfew in Prince George’s County, county officials are pondering long-term solutions to youth crime.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks implemented the curfew in September 2022 after police investigated 24 homicides in August 2022. The curfew ended Dec. 31, 2022, and elected officials are now reflecting on its effectiveness and its future.
District 6 council member and council vice-chair Wala Blegay said the curfew acknowledged the concerns residents had about crime and offered a temporary solution to the issue. But, Blegay emphasized that the county must create a comprehensive plan to address the issue in the long run.
“I do think that some people want to see this sort of strict response from the government to say, ‘We’re not playing games,’” Blegay said. “The long-term goal has to be addressed … we do short-term goals, and then when pressure comes down, we kind of focus elsewhere.”
The curfew, which was for children 16 years and younger, was only expected to last for 30 days. It barred teens from being without parental supervision in public between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and between 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Crime dropped by 13 percent overall and 20 percent during curfew hours in the first month, according to county Police Chief Malik Aziz, in an October press conference.
Aziz also acknowledged the reduction could not solely be attributed to the curfew itself.
Blegay noted crime typically increases during the summer months and highlighted the need to address everyday issues in the county, such as affordable housing and mental health support to tackle the underlying problems.
“The long-term solution is addressing housing issues and mental health support,” she said. “Some of these people are doing simple carjackings or robberies because they don’t have food at home … we need to connect them with the opportunity to get good paying jobs early.”
District 3 council member Eric Olson, who represents College Park, agreed other support systems such as youth programs and internship opportunities should be put in place, but also noted the messaging of the curfew was helpful.
“What the county executive was doing was sending a message to parents and to the broader community that we need to make sure that we’re paying attention to young people,” Olson said. “A 15-year-old shouldn’t be out in the middle of the night.”
While Olson and Blegay saw benefits in the curfew, former District 7 council candidate Gary Falls criticized the measure. Falls, who ran as a Republican, said the act was unconstitutional and an infringement of citizens’ rights in an October interview.
Another important factor is many criminal perpetrators in Prince George’s County are from neighboring Washington, D.C., Blegay said. She hopes the effort in Prince George’s County is a collaborative effort between legislative officials in both the county and the district.
With the summer months approaching, the county council will continue to prioritize crime, Blegay said.
“We have to prepare ourselves for that [increase in crime during summer months] and start working now to make sure that it doesn’t get to the point that people feel like they can’t be safe here,” she said.