Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Missed Curfew

As of this posting I'm overdue by 75 minutes, and I'm supposed to be done blogging by 5! 

Didn't hear the horn I guess.

"Curfew sweeps children off N.H. city streets at night" by Brian MacQuarrie Globe Staff  September 15, 2015

FRANKLIN, N.H. — The teenagers walked up ghostly Central Street on Monday night, laughing and joking and making more noise than the deserted downtown had heard all evening. Then, precisely at 9 p.m., a booming, three-second blast of a horn from the fire station stopped them in their tracks.

“Oh, my God,” shrieked Karen Fortine, a 13-year-old, as she put her hands to her ears and cringed on a darkened sidewalk.

Within minutes, Patrolman Jeffrey King approached to challenge them: “What about that horn that just went off? What did it mean?”

It means that every unaccompanied child under 16 years old in Franklin must be off the streets at 9 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays, and at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The curfew was reinstated last week, after being suspended more than a year ago, because police began noticing children roaming the city late at night. It’s a restriction that is being applauded by many residents in this struggling former mill city, where bells and horns have been telling people what to do since the 19th century.

The curfew “is a good idea,” said Karen Corbeil as she walked on a bridge across the Winnipesaukee River. “We have young kids running around town causing vandalism. Why wouldn’t you want it?”

But what makes sense to some people in New Hampshire’s smallest city, population 8,500, is anathema to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has threatened to sue Franklin if the curfew is not rescinded.

“Parents and guardians are in the best position to know what is best for their kids, not the government,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU of New Hampshire. “A law like this would prohibit a 14-year-old from walking the family dog, or running an errand for a mom who is forced to stay home to take care of a much younger sibling.”

Thomas Carroll, who lives near the fire station, echoed Bissonnette’s criticism. “It’s not the government’s job to tell anybody to go to bed,” Carroll said.

Well maybe it should be (I'm usually in early every night)!!!

Curfews are unusual, but not unheard of, in New Hampshire and other New England communities. Neither Franklin officials nor the ACLU could name another community in the state that enforces one, although officials in Somersworth, a city in southeastern New Hampshire, are considering a law similar to Franklin’s.

Pittsfield has a curfew on the books, but Town Administrator Earle Wingate said the whistle that would signal it needs repair, and officials have other priorities.

The Franklin siren is up-country old tech: It’s attached to a radio antenna, 50 feet in the air, and uses compressed air and an electronic timer to blast its 3-second signal over every part of Franklin’s 29 square miles. Every night.

The Franklin curfew is designed to hold parents and guardians responsible for their children’s behavior. On a first offense, the child will be brought by police to the home or be picked up at the station. For a second offense, the parents or guardians face a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry a fine of up to $1,200.

I was wondering where the parents were/are.

Franklin had a curfew for nearly 20 years until it was suspended about 18 months ago over legal concerns. But when residents began complaining about young teenagers congregating in public, the city’s prosecutor reviewed the ordinance and deemed it legally sound because it penalizes adults instead of children, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said.

The gangs scare me, yeah.

The horn began sounding again at 11 p.m. Friday after a lopsided vote by the City Council.

Bissonnette, the ACLU attorney, said a federal judge in the 1980s struck down a similar curfew in Keene. Then as now, he argued, “the law is just extreme and so overbroad that it raises real concerns about its constitutionality.”

Several local officials and residents linked the curfew with vandalism concerns, but no one could cite a specific crime committed late at night by young teenagers. However, Police Chief David Goldstein sees the ordinance as common-sense public safety in this city, about 20 miles north of the state capital of Concord.

“We haven’t come up with this Machiavellian effort to interfere with families and children. What we’re trying to do is keep everybody OK and happy and secure,” Goldstein said.

“We’re talking about children — and I use that term lovingly — but we’re talking about children 12, and 13, and 14, and there’s no reason why they should be out at 11, or 12, or 1 in the morning.”

It's a good point, and is a concern if they are running around wild; however, the curfew is simply another measure in the long, slow march towards martial law. Get used to it!

Those children are allowed on the streets after curfew if accompanied by parents, guardians, or a “suitable person,” defined as someone 18 or older who has been approved by the parents or guardian and is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

When asked whether parents — and not city officials — are the best judges of when children should be home, Goldstein did not hesitate. “Sometimes that does not happen if we’re going to live in the real world,” the chief said.

Since when? I was raised to believe it was government.

Franklin Fire Chief Kevin LaChapelle said the curfew is about a “sense of accountability.”

“Our community is a traditional New England community,” he said. “This is nothing new to us.”

Yeah, I've comes to find out us Yankees are a bunch of sanctimonious shits and very authoritarian.

The horn is not new, but it’s potent: LaChapelle gently cautioned visitors not to stand too close to it at curfew time.

“I live in Tilton, and you can hear it at my house,” LaChapelle said with a smile.

Katie Young also can hear the horn, and she is not amused. The fire station is across the street from her house, and the signal is startling her week-old daughter.

“It’s annoying, and it freaks her out,” Young said.

But after that horn blows, Franklin’s quiet streets become a little quieter.

Except, perhaps, on a small patch of Central Street, where 13-year-old Karen Fortine had just been advised by Officer King that a curfew is a curfew. The door to her apartment swung open, Karen’s mother appeared, and another form of law was laid down.

“Get upstairs,” her mother snapped. “Now!”

Or what?


Good thing about my youth was.... uh-oh. Just heard a horn so I'll have to cut the story short and tell you later.

UPDATE: N.H. city that had enacted curfew thinks twice