Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) August 28, 2009 -- The city of Patterson, New Jersey is discussing a curfew that will involve all adults. This would be the first United States non-emergency curfew, if it becomes law.
"We're trying to think outside the box. This idea was triggered predominantly by fear among city residents, over the shootings that have been occurring this summer", said Mayor Jose Torres.
In a tit-for-tat battle between rival groups, a 29 year old man was gunned down in his car last week. The police refuse to call them gangs. The entire city population has been thrown into a reign of fear and terror, even though homicides and shootings are reduced compared to the same period last year.
Roughly 147,000 residents live in third largest city New Jersey' Patterson and will come under the influence of the curfew. The authorities are resolute in their determination to halt the violence.
The curfew will extend for two months, with people unable to loiter outdoors, from the hours of midnight to 7.a.m. Offenders will face a $2,000 fine and 90 days in jail. People in transit will be exempt.
A curfews legal definition is 'a law, regulation or ordinance that bans certain people, or specific classes of people from being outdoors in public places, at particular times of the day'. Adult curfews interfere with fundamental constitutional rights and are therefore subject to strict judicial scrutiny.
The Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that 'the right to walk the streets, or to meet publicly with one's friends for a noble purpose, or for no purpose at all â and to do so whenever one pleases â is an integral component of life in a free and ordered society'.
A government-imposed adult curfew must be based on an overwhelming state interest that is narrowly designed to serve the curfew;s aims and goals. Court's are unwilling to rule that an interest put forward by the government is compelling. It can be put into practice only if the community has been destroyed by flood, fire, or disease, or the safety and welfare of the inhabitants are threatened.
âTemporary restrictions on the rights of a personâ¦are a reasonable means of reclaiming order from ANARCHY so that all might exercise their constitutional rights freely and safely,â was the ruling of a California court.
It will be interesting to see if Pattersonâs authorities will be able to implement a curfew without declaring the offending âgroupsâ as gangs creating a danger of anarchy.
There is a strong possibility there will be legal challenges to the curfew. Ed Barocas, legal director of the state ACLU, said âThe American Civil Liberties Union has already successfully defeated several juvenile curfews in New Jersey courts".
Some Patterson inhabitants consider the curfew will only serve to drive the violence indoors. Others are worried at the inability of the police to tell the difference between the gang members and the general public.
New Orleans, New York City and Jersey City are cities that have previously imposed curfews in nominated areas, such as parks, but those bans were not citywide.
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