Hanceville weighs youth curfew at city parks

·3 min read

Jan. 14—HANCEVILLE — Hanceville leaders are weighing a curfew ordinance that, if approved, could make it illegal for unaccompanied minors to remain the city's parks in the evening hours between dusk and dawn.

A recent spate of vandalism at Veterans Park and C.W. Day Park, said mayor Kenneth Nail, has inflicted costly and needless damage to city property.

"Our park people went to Veterans Park yesterday, and some idiot had done probably $1,000 in damage, at least," he said Thursday at the city's regular council meeting. "A few weeks ago, during our Tinsel Trail, one of our park workers again found folks tearing our stuff up and caught them and kept them there until the police arrived. It's just unreal."

Vandalism is, of course, already illegal. But, Nail noted, the city's current laws are aimed at punishment rather than prevention. Local police and park staff, he said, have seen unaccompanied teens at the park after dark and have a pretty good idea of how the destruction is happening. But, without a curfew in place, all they can do is hope to catch perpetrators in the act. They can't, in other words, ask them to leave.

"What we'd want to do, I think, is make a curfew stating that unaccompanied juveniles can't be in the park from sunset to sunrise, and make it so that it wouldn't apply during organized events at the park, as well as anytime a parent or guardian is accompanying them," said police chief Bob Long. "Right now there's no recourse, if you see a kid alone at the park after hours, unless you catch them in the act of vandalism."

Council members said they don't want to create an ordinance that restricts enjoyment of the parks for the majority of residents, only in order to deter the few who are vandalizing city property. They're planning to take the matter up again at the Jan. 27 regular meeting,

"I wanted to gauge the council's interest in it before taking the time to write up an ordinance," said Nail. "We don't want to penalize everybody, just to put a stop to bad behavior from a few people. We'll look at it again in a couple of weeks."

In other business at its regular meeting, the council:

Held a pair of public hearings related to property zoning, with no one speaking at either. After the hearings, the council rezoned property belonging to Statewide Sales from R-1 residential to B-2 business; and established M-2 manufacturing zoning for property belonging to the city industrial board.

Surplussed a bat wing bush hog mower for secondhand sale.

Approved a request from Willow Brook Boutique for an arts and crafts event at the civic center on April 9.

Reappointed Tim Brigham to the zoning board of adjustments for a 3-year term.

Appointed Leigh Ann Courington to the Place 3 seat on the Hanceville Water and Sewer Board for a 6-year term.

Tabled consideration of purchasing a security system equipped with card readers and smart lock access to city hall, along with other features, until the Jan. 27 regular meeting.

Approved the minutes of the council's Dec. 20, 2021 regular meeting.

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