Prince George’s Co. to enforce youth curfew at National Harbor starting Friday

Following a flurry of incidents involving teenagers at National Harbor, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said that a youth curfew will be reinstated to control crime along the waterfront starting Friday evening.

Most recently, a group of around 800 young people at the National Harbor were fighting, shoplifting, illegally smoking and engaging in other criminal behavior on Saturday, Police Chief Malik Aziz said.

Alsobrooks declared a state of emergency Thursday that allows officials to enforce a youth curfew to prevent those incidents. Unaccompanied kids and teens who are 16 and younger aren’t allowed at National Harbor on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Overnight on weekends, kids have to be with someone over the age of 21 who has permission from the child’s parent or guardian to watch them.

The curfew comes as the county has invested in its youth enrichment program and mental health services with hopes of keeping kids out of trouble. But Alsobrooks said to be successful, those efforts have to have a communitywide understanding.

“Our parents must know that National Harbor is not a day care or a playground,” Alsobrooks said at a news conference Thursday. “We cannot have our children coming to the National Harbor unsupervised, especially with the intention of causing trouble.”

Alsobrooks’ order comes after the Prince George’s County Council took action to address incidents at National Harbor this week. The Committee of the Whole passed an emergency bill Tuesday that would let the county police chief designate juvenile curfew zones if requested by retail and commercial property owners.

That legislation could be taken up by the council next week. If passed, it would not become law until late next month at the earliest.

“Right now it’s been National Harbor. Next, it could be Bethesda,” Council Chair Jolene Ivey said Thursday. “But if it’s anywhere else in Prince George’s County, we’re prepared because of the legislation that’s working its way through.”

How will the curfew work?

Kids who aren’t with a parent or guardian on weekend nights will first be given a warning. Parents will have to pick their child up, or they can head home the same way they traveled to National Harbor.

After that, if kids are caught breaking the curfew, Aziz said a written notice will be mailed to their parents.

If minors break the curfew again, their parents could be fined $50. The fines climb incrementally from there. A second offense will result in a $100 fine and any subsequent curfew-breaking will land parents with a $250 fine.

If a parent or guardian doesn’t pick up their child within an hour of receiving notice they violated curfew, they could face fines for costs associated with authorities detaining their child.

“The police are there for … safety and security,” Aziz said. “We are not there to be your babysitters.”

Some exceptions to the curfew will be made, including young people who are leaving work or heading back from a school-sponsored activity, like prom. Kids who live at National Harbor are allowed to be on the sidewalk in front of their home or their next door neighbors’, as long as the resident doesn’t complain to police.

Officials are also coordinating with ride-share services and WMATA to avoid having drivers drop off unaccompanied kids during the curfew.

Law enforcement officers will have an increased presence at the harbor starting this weekend to educate the public about the new rules, Aziz said. There will also be signs by the National Harbor warning people about the curfew.

What prompted the curfew?

Alsobrooks said large crowds of minors have gathered at the harbor, at times vandalizing, shoplifting or being violent.

Though Alsobrooks said that unruly behavior at the National Harbor last weekend was “quite troubling,” plans have been in the works for months to control youth crime.

“What we saw unfold last weekend, by all accounts was the single worst day that we’ve had there,” Alsobrooks said. “That’s what caused us to really expedite the plans that we were already working on.”

Resident Kat Mitchell said she saw hordes of kids in separate groups gathering at the harbor on Saturday and said she supports the new curfew.

“Take control of your children. Kids are going to be kids,” she urged parents, adding that children shouldn’t be dropped off at National Harbor.

“There are so many things to enjoy but there are so many opportunities for kids to get involved in things that they shouldn’t be involved in.”

Disruptive behavior harms area businesses which create millions of dollars in tax revenue for Maryland. Some have been forced to close early on weekends — which is when 30% of their revenue is generated, she said.

“If visitors do not feel safe coming to the National Harbor then these businesses, their employees, our state and our county will suffer,” Alsobrooks said.

Officials said unaccompanied youth pose a risk to themselves as well as others.

At times, police have encountered kids as young as eight years old at the waterfront without a trusted adult.

“Our children no matter what their age, look towards us for love, leadership and accountability. All are required,” Aziz said. “We know that keeping our children at home during curfew hours could have its challenges, but the alternatives have great consequences.”

It’s not the first time a curfew has been put in place at National Harbor. The county put similar restrictions into effect there in November 2020 after unaccompanied teens were allegedly gathering there and not following COVID-19 mask rules. Alsobrooks said the current curfew made some adjustments based off that directive, which she called “successful.”

“Our goal is to ensure that everyone can feel safe and secure and that they can come to enjoy the vibrant community that we have here,” Alsobrooks said.

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report. 

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Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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