A brick was tossed through the window of Firehouse Subs on Hwy. 278 at around 4:56 a.m. on Sept. 10. Shortly after, another brick was tossed into Metro PCS, followed by a third burglary alarm at Little Caesars just after 5:30 a.m.
Nothing was taken, but hundreds of dollars of damage was done. Who were the perpetrators? According to Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, the burglaries are tied to a 10 year old — a juvenile, who was out either way past their bed time, or way before the school bus left the barn.
This was one of 40 juvenile (16 years old and under) problems reported in the month of September. Twenty-one were burglaries and six occurring between 4-5 a.m.
Cotton and City of Covington officials have not only seen these problems first hand, but also heard from the community that a change is needed. Therefore, the Covington City Council placed an ordinance on Monday’s agenda to alter Title 9, chapter 8 offenses by or against minors to include a curfew for 16-year-old and younger children.
The ordinance would make it unlawful for juveniles, 16 and under, to be out and unsupervised after 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
City of Covington attorney Frank Turner, Jr. said parts of this ordinance were taken from a similar one used in Conyers.
That curfew saw 14 citations written to parents on Sept. 13. On that night, approximately 30 juveniles were gathered in the area of a fight near Applebee’s.
Such a juvenile problem is what Covington officials are hoping to avoid. Covington Police officer Allan Seebaran said a juvenile problem ranges from “mischief to a parent having a problem with a child or a child out late at night walking the street or hanging out on the street and up to no good.”
According to the Covington Police Department there were 30 juvenile problems, 12 occurring between 10 p.m.-6 a.m. in the month of August. Last month there were 48 juvenile problems, nine happening between 10 p.m.-6 a.m.
That is the time frame that the curfew, which was discussed and voted on Monday is to address.
Before a vote on a curfew ordinance passed 5-1 during Monday’s public meeting, the council discussed it in a more private setting. Councilwomen Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams were hesitant to vote on it, with Goodmanand Franklin wanting to table the ordinance.
Councilmen Keith Dalton, Chris Smith and Michael Whatley, along with Mayor Ronnie Johnston were for the ordinance. The discussion turned into a lengthy and heated debate with Smith even stepping out of the room.
“We have to do it for the entire city,” Smith said during the debate. “I don’t see it as a black and white issue like some do.”
Franklin answered that she too was looking at the whole city, not just the Green Acres community, which spurred the ordinance in a town hall meeting recently.
“I’m not saying it’s a black and white issue, I’m saying it’s for the entire city.”
Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton reassuring the six council members that the curfew would not target juveniles but give police a tool to issue parents citations.
“When we come across children and take them to their parents, sometimes the parents are saying they don’t care,” Cotton said. “The ordinance is to deal with the parents having more responsibility.”
Despite the split vote during the work session, which Johnston, —who is the tiebreaker — said he would vote for the ordinance, it was a near unanimous decision during the first reading.
The second reading will occur during the council’s December meeting. If it passes, Johnston would sign it into effect Dec. 9.
“We need to give the chief as many tools as we can,” Johnston said during the work session. “I don’t want us to wait until something really bad happens. I want us to be proactive before we get a 10 year old shot.
“I struggle with government getting in people’s lives too.”