Emergency Ordinance Prompted by Gang Activity, Large Numbers of Unruly Teens

On Monday, August 31, Greenville City Council unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance that restricts the hours that minors under the age of 18 can be in downtown Greenville’s Central Business District.

Following a report by Police Chief Terri Wilfong, regarding the out-of-control situation that existed the previous weekend, City Council decided there was a compelling need to take immediate action to ensure that a similar situation did not occur during the Labor Day weekend.

Greenville closes streets to vehicles and sets up street venders for food and drink on Friday and Saturday nights to attract people downtown to benefit merchants. Roving bands of unruly teens using abusive language and frightening visitors to the city are not welcome.

Police are reluctant to challenge the roving bands of youngsters for fear of triggering a racial incident that could be picked up by regional and national media and reflect negatively on the city’s image.

The curfew is an attempt to control the situation without confrontation.

When these problems arose in the past, the gangs of unruly youth moved to suburban businesses and parking lots and created a problem for county law enforcement.

The emergency city ordinance became effective beginning Friday, September 4 and will be in effect until October 31, 2009   when the weather will be cooler and tempers moderate.

In preparation for the effective date of the curfew, the Police Department and City staff worked with local community partners such as the Greenville County School District, downtown businesses and youth-serving organizations, as well as expanding their education and awareness efforts to include the school districts in surrounding counties to reach as many students and parents as possible prior to the institution of the curfew.

In addition to fliers and signs informing people of the curfew, police officers assigned to the downtown area informed people of the curfew, and were authorized to use discretion in determining whether someone is in violation of the curfew. Designated holding sites were set-up to hold youth who knowingly disregard the curfew until they could be picked up by parents or guardians.

The curfew is in effect in the central business district between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., Friday and Saturday nights and on the night before any holiday observed by the city.

The curfew applies to any youth under the age of 18 who is not accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or custodial adult who is on foot or driving or riding through the central business district during the curfew hours.

The City Council has listed five exceptions to the ordinance for unaccompanied youth under the age of 18.

• If they are en route to or from a church or other place of worship for religious services or supervised activities.

• If they are en route to or from their place of employment.

• If they are en route to a hospital or other medical facility.

• If they are performing an errand for a parent, legal guardian or custodial adult (must have written permission).

• If they are en route to their home from a downtown business, event, performance or other activity.

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