When police in Springville and Payson tell juveniles it's past curfew and time to get off the streets, the teenagers can simply jump in their cars and head for safe ground in Spanish Fork.
Teenagers in Pleasant Grove and Lehi can seek the same sanctuary in American Fork."As it presently exists, juveniles can go from one city to another and may or may not find themselves in violation of a curfew ordinance," Utah County Sheriff David Bateman said.
That will no longer be the case, however, if a proposed curfew ordinance is adopted by the Utah County Commission and various city councils. Because city curfew ordinances vary so much, Bateman is asking commissioners to adopt a county curfew ordinance and then urge cities to follow suit.
Salt Lake County also is considering a new curfew ordinance. Bateman said the two counties' curfew hours should be the same, so the Utah County proposal could change depending on what Salt Lake County adopts.
"Because we're becoming somewhat urbanized, we need a unified ordinance," Bateman said. "As it is, kids are confused about the law because it's different everywhere they go. They need to know what they're expected to adhere to, because most will obey the law if they know what it is."
Curfew ordinances are not new and every city has one. They are used mainly by law enforcement to disperse large groups of loitering youth. Police believe curfews help curtail late-night criminal activity. With increased gang activity over the past few years, curfews are being enforced more than ever.
The ordinance proposed by Bateman came out of monthly meetings between local police chiefs. Springville Police Chief Leland Bowers has spearheaded the effort to get curfew hours unified.
"If we can standardize these ordinances, it will make enforcement much easier and simpler," Bate-man said.
The proposed ordinance is similar to the one currently in force in Payson. The curfew for juveniles under the age of 16 would be 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds would have to be off the streets by 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Teenagers with a set destination, or traveling to or from most social and religious activities, would be exempt from the ordinance. Also, married teenagers and those living on their own would be exempt.
Utah County currently has no curfew and commissioners have mixed feelings about the proposed ordinance. All three say the ordinance could be effective if used properly to disperse gangs, but they don't want it used to harass teenagers.
"I'm very hesitant for government to become parents," Commissioner Gary Herbert said.
Commissioner Malcolm Beck said, "The thing I'd hate to see is a harassment system with this legislation."
A copy of the ordinance will be presented to the Council of Governments next month for reaction from local mayors. Also, commissioners will take public input for about 30 days before acting on the proposal.
"I think this is an important enough issue that it merits some public input," Bateman said. "It could have some significant impact."
If commissioners adopt the ordinance, Bateman said, police chiefs will then present the ordinance to their respective city councils.
Under age 16 16- and 17-year-olds
Mon.-Thur. Fri.-Sat. Mon.-Thur. Fri.-Sat.
Payson 10 p.m. 11 p.m. 11 p.m. midnight
Spanish Fork midnight midnight 1 a.m. 1 a.m.
Springville 11 p.m. 11 p.m. midnight midnight
Provo 10 p.m. 11 p.m. 11 p.m. 1 a.m.
Orem 11 p.m. 11 p.m. 11 p.m. 1 a.m.
Pleasant Grove10 p.m. 10 p.m. midnight midnight
American Fork* 1 a.m. 1 a.m. 1 a.m. 1 a.m.
Lehi 10 p.m. 11 p.m. 1 a.m. 1 a.m.
* American Fork's curfew for children under 14 is 11 p.m.