OURAY – A recent crime wave in Ouray prompted a lively discussion on imposing nighttime curfews for youth at Monday night’s Ouray City Council meeting, but no action was taken and the discussion will continue.
Several recent business burglaries and vandalism at Fellin Park began the curfew discussion at the last council meeting, but this week Councilmember John Ferguson said he is opposed, and imposing a curfew is not the answer to crime.
“I have a problem with government dictating what parents and guardians should be doing,” he said. “It seems a knee-jerk reaction, and I question whether it would be a benefit.”
But discussion continued, particularly over what hour should be set as the curfew, with Police Chief Leo Rasmussen suggesting 11 p.m. or midnight, to give young people time to get home from work or school events.
One woman in the audience asked if the curfew would be temporary or permanent.
“I understand short-term, but to impose long-term [curfew] is overstepping,” she said.
Also from the audience, Denise Geddes said she always stays up past midnight, and has seen kids from 13 to 18 years old, “so drunk they’re staggering” by her house late at night.
“People are afraid to walk down the streets that they’ll get mugged or attacked by unruly teenagers,” she said. “They egged our beautiful city hall.”
Bruce Cooley said he’s in favor of a curfew because he saw a kid standing at the end of his driveway talking on a cell phone at 10:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, so he asked him what he was doing there.
“We’re becoming vigilantes,” he said.
Assistant County Attorney Kathryn Sellers has been working on a curfew ordinance for Olathe, said City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli, so he asked her to use that ordinance as a basis for Ouray’s.
Sellers said the draft ordinance states a fine of $1,000 or 90 days in jail for a first offense, but Mary Rasmussen, from the audience, suggested that first offenses could be covered by community service, which is how the city handles underage tobacco users.
Councilmember Gary Hansen asked if young people caused all the recent crime, and Sellers said the curfew is in order to fight crime, but it can’t be imposed on adults.
“We cannot pass an ordinance without a reason for passing a curfew,” she said. “And we can’t impose a curfew on adults without martial law.”
Without a curfew in place, a juvenile out late at night doesn’t even have talk to a police officer, Chief Rasmussen said, but would be required to with a curfew.
Even though Councilmember Betty Wolfe explained that with a curfew, officers would have another tool to combat crime, Hansen had misgivings, and Ferguson was adamant.
“I just don’t know if this is the right tool to deal with the problem,” Hansen said.
“I know that 98 percent are in favor it but I think we’re being hasty, and I still think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to criminal activity, and I’m opposed,” Ferguson said.
Wolfe shot back: “Well, maybe we need a little knee-jerk reaction.”
Mayor Bob Risch said he wants balance, with the curfew ordinance to fall “somewhere between being a nanny state and helping the police.”
Risch urged Rondinelli to have city staff update the proposed curfew ordinance with suggested changes before the next regular council meeting on Dec. 20.