Prince George’s Co. teens say curfew isn’t enough to curb crime

There’s debate about the effectiveness of the enforcement of the youth curfew in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but even those who support it say that it alone will not be enough to reverse the uptick in youth crime. That includes a handful of teenagers who spoke with WTOP.

While three teenagers is hardly representative of the tens of thousands of teens who live in the county, they each agreed that a curfew is just a Band-Aid.

“I feel like a lot of students aren’t being engaged in school,” said Jaden Libby-Gonzaga, a 15-year-old from Bowie. He called the curfew, which requires kids 16 and under to be home by 10 p.m. during the week and by midnight on weekends, a short-term solution.

Libby-Gonzaga pointed out studies that show “a lot of crime is actually during the hours of 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” and said more resources need to be put into schools and other recreational activities.

“Some just don’t know any better so they just need something to do,” said 15-year-old Jordan Houchins, an Upper Marlboro resident who goes to Lanham Christian School. He’s also involved with the county’s Xtreme Teens program, and said more offerings like that are needed.

“I feel like the schools and community centers nearby should give more structured activities and give them something to do [so] they’re not just in the house bored all night,” said Houchins.

He said that’s especially true for those who aren’t involved in after-school sports or other clubs.

Another teen who spoke with WTOP said the disruptions caused by the pandemic are still having an impact in classrooms, and suggested that the return to in-person learning hasn’t been an easy transition for teens whose lives and education were disrupted by virtual learning.

Before the pandemic, “I know that there was sort of a different vibe when it comes to just learning in general,” said Shelemiah Griffiths-Johnson, 14, a student at Flowers High School.

He said it was too easy to lose focus with online learning, and those behaviors have carried over in many students since schools returned to in-person learning.

His suggestion?

“Take a step back and look at the approach,” said Griffiths-Johnson. “Either small group or one-on-one sessions would help kids. I think that would be really helpful considering the fact that I feel like a lot of kids don’t have someone to talk to.”

As for the curfew, he said, “I know it’s not going to stop all of the violence, but I know it has a chance of lowering it.”

“Being a teen, one of the main things you’re supposed to focus on during the day is education,” said his friend, Libby-Gonzaga. “Me going to school, I’ve seen that a lot of kids aren’t doing that at this point in time, so I feel like there needs to be a change there.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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