Curfew law closer to passage

The Wapakoneta police chief provided a couple of definitions Wednesday to be incorporated into the city’s curfew ordinance as city elected officials work to improve the legislation.

Wapakoneta City Council Councilor-at-large Randy Fisher explained the definition of “other adult person” and “care and custody” provided by Police Chief Russ Hunlock would be written into an amendment of the curfew ordinance, which should have its final review before the Health and Safety Committee next month before being presented to Wapakoneta City Council members.

“I think the definitions the chief of police proposed are as good as it is going to get,” Fisher said after Wednesday Health and Safety Committee meeting. “As the chief said over and over again there is no perfect solution to this problem — this is going to make the ordinance the best that we can provide at this time.”

Hunlock’s proposal would make “other adult person” as any person 18 years of age and older who has been given permission by the youth’s parent or legal guardian to have care and custody of the minor. The person would assume legal responsibility for the minor and any activities the minor is engaged in, actively or inactively.

Hunlock also defined “care and custody” as having total control of the minor’s welfare and actions, including the fact the adult person shall not engage in any type of criminal activity during the time the minor is under the adult person’s supervision.

Hunlock explained to committee members he and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains reviewed other documents and spent several hours before developing the definitions.

The police chief told committee members that any amendments to be proposed would not appease everyone and “these are the best definitions that we could come up with at this time.”

He also addressed the officers’ approach to curfew enforcement.

“We do use discretion — we are not just out to get kids who are underage or under 18,” Hunlock said. “We do feel that there is a need to enforce the curfew law and we also feel there is a need to contact the minor’s parents, to have them pick the child up and to turn them over to them.

“We feel there is a liability issue if we just let them go,” he said. “We do not want to see any minor get hurt because we did not contact the parent and we did not do our job.”

Hunlock said the minors are not arrested and all cases are forwarded to the Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office juvenile prosecutor, who determines if charges are warranted.

Councilor-at-large Thomas Finkelmeier, who is a member of the Health and Safety Committee member, said he also would include some exceptions discussed last year which included references to minors traveling to and from school and religious activities and school-related and participatory athletic events could be out after curfew if it was determined they were going straight home.

Finkelmeier would include the amendments in a final draft of the legislation.

When the amendments are made to the curfew ordinance, Health and Safety Committee members plan to have city Law Director Denny Faller review the document before presenting the amended ordinance to council members for their approval.

Last summer, councilors approved an amendment the curfew ordinance to eliminate one hour from the curfew times, changing the morning time from 6 a.m. to 5 a.m. so Sunday through Thursday the hours are now 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m. instead of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and midnight to 6 a.m., respectively.