Not all police in Prince George’s Co. will be enforcing curfew

A lot has been made about the curfew that county leaders say Prince George’s County, Maryland, police will begin strictly enforcing again this weekend. But some of the county’s biggest municipal departments won’t be involved in it.

“In Bowie we have the city charter that does not allow us to enforce Prince George’s County ordinances,” said Bowie Police Chief John Nesky.

Police in Greenbelt say they operate in a similar manner and will take a similar stance this weekend.

“The city council looked at it and we’re not going to be doing anything as a parallel ordinance under the city,” Nesky added.

“I understand where they’re (Prince George’s County) coming from; I understand the reasoning behind it,” said Nesky. But he’s also worried that curfew enforcement efforts could set back the efforts in recent years aimed at reducing police interactions over civil offenses.

“What kind of positions are we putting our officers in, addressing a youth that may be on the street — that may be a youth or may not be a youth; we’re not sure of age or anything else — and what if that person refuses to give that information, is uncooperative?,” the chief said. “How far does the officer take it to look at what is basically a civil infraction?”

Hyattsville Police Chief Jarod Towers sees some of the same concerns.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to enforce any law; it’s our duty to do so,” he said. However, “We can’t just stop people and verify their age and say ‘How old are you; what are you doing on the street?’”

“We’re not going to be increasing our enforcement efforts to focus on targeting people out after certain hours just to verify their age,” he added.

But the chiefs added that teenagers shouldn’t think they’ll be able to get away with whatever they want either.

Hypothetically, if some teenagers are out at 1 a.m., “That doesn’t preclude the officer from finding out if there’s any criminal activity happening; we just won’t be enforcing the curfew, per se. We are going to engage based upon probable cause for criminal activity,” Nesky said.

“If we come into contact with individuals through other means, and learn that they’re in violation of the curfew, we’ll advise them and warn them,” said Towers.

He also warned young people that the county police have “concurrent jurisdiction” through all the county’s municipalities, so they could enforce the curfew.

Towers also had his doubts that the curfew would keep criminals inside, anyway.

“The violent offenders who are in our community victimizing our residents are not going to abide by a curfew,” he said. “At the end of the day, they’re committing felonies; they’re committing crimes. Why are they going to have any extra concern for a civil action?”

Nesky applauded county leaders for trying something, but he didn’t exactly endorse the curfew idea either.

“I understand the reasoning — we have to do something to try and drive these juvenile [crime] numbers down,” he said. “They need to do something to drive these numbers down. We all do. It’s just a difference in opinion on strategy.”

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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