McLennan Town Council and the RCMP have teamed in an effort to help curb the number of incidents of youth roaming local streets after the hours of 10 p.m.
Both parties met face to face at council’s regular meeting Feb. 13 to discuss the possibility of amending the municipality’s existing curfew bylaw by giving it more teeth.
The end result was a proposal which may result in a substantial increase to the overall fine structure of the town’s curfew bylaw.
That hike will be reflected through first offense fines, which could jump from a previous maximum of $5 up to $200 if approved, in addition to second and subsequent fines that could also skyrocket from $10 to a maximum of $400.
“We’re looking for a tool to deal with the kids that we suspect are causing all the problems,” said Sgt. Lewis Kuntz, who emphasized he would like to see updated legislation in place by as early as May of this year.
Under the revised bylaw, no child under the age of 16 years of age would be permitted to be in a public place at night without adult supervision or guardianship.
The bylaw hours would be in effect beginning at 10 p.m., from Sunday to Thursday inclusive and after the hours of 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The need to amend the bylaw came after members of the McLennan Chamber of Commerce approached the RCMP to inquire if something could be done to address the issue.
“The chamber approached us last fall and indicated that it was experiencing problems with youth in the downtown area,” Sgt. Kuntz said.
That statement was validated by Const. Cedric Petitclerc, who was also in attendance.
He said entrepreneurs in general are concerned about the effects which hanging out in front of their businesses will have on sales, adding the RCMP hope to get other organizations involved the process by keeping a watchful eye out over the community.
Seeking additional group involvement
That includes the McLennan Youth Group and Citizens On Patrol – a community safety initiative introduced last year by Family Community Support Services (FCSS) and Community Development Coordinator Richard Comeau.
“We are considering using the youth group to not only be our eyes and ears but to also mix with the kids by serving as role models,” Sgt. Kuntz stated.
He said that while youth identified as being a nuisance are the target of RCMP officers, there will by room for the use of discretion.
“Obviously, we’re not going to go downtown and start charging everyone under the bylaw. We want to have it available at our disposal as a last resort
Sgt. Kuntz stressed that the issue of youths roaming throughout communities at night is nothing new to Alberta.
Mayor John Kachuk then asked whether or not neighbouring municipalities would be included in the proposed youth crackdown area.
Sgt. Kuntz responded by stating that RCMP members are not presently experiencing similar problems in other communities.
Sgt. Kuntz said it was also important to keep in mind that there are limitations to what they can or can not do by law.
“In the eyes of the law, 11 years and 364 days doesn’t mean anything,” he said adding that under the current Canadian Criminal Code the RCMP can’t charge anyone under the age of 12 for violating a municipal curfew.
What that generally results in is a slap on the wrist for a child which is subsequently taken home by an RCMP member to be dealt with by his/her parents.
“So if I understand you correctly, this bylaw really wouldn’t be of any use to the RCMP for teens under the age of 16,” said Councillor Bob Thrall.
“That’s correct,” said Sgt. Kuntz, who stressed the importance of parents playing a key role in the process by knowing the whereabouts of their children at all times.
The revised bylaw (Bylaw 2002-03) could get the green light from councillors by as early as March 11, the date of their next meeting.
The document would then have to be forwarded to the crown prosecutor in Peace River, who will determine if the legislations is enforceable or not.