ATHENS : Sheriff's Department Is Planning Curfew

Prompted by increasing problems with gangs and violence, the County Sheriff's Department is working on plans to institute a curfew in the unincorporated Athens neighborhood.

The plan, which sheriff's officials said will be worked out with additional community input, was proposed in April after officials monitored similar programs in cities such as Inglewood, Walnut Park and Huntington Beach, said Sheriff's Lt. Rodney Lyons. It could be in place in Athens as soon as next month.

"Curfews are being used successfully by other cities and that's why we were considering using it," Lyons said.

Capt. Jack Scully of the Lennox Station has been meeting with residents, church leaders and community leaders to work out which days the curfew will be in effect, as well as draw up a youth and gang intervention program. Currently, county codes allow unincorporated areas to impose curfews for minors from 10 p.m. to dawn, with violators subject to a $500 fine.

The plan targets an area roughly bounded by El Segundo Boulevard on the south, Manchester Boulevard on the north, Vermont Avenue on the east and Van Ness Avenue on the west.

"The violence in this area is terrible," Scully said, noting that this year's homicide rate in the area is expected to surpass that of 1993. "We're not trying to criminalize kids. What we'll do is bring the kids in and turn them over to the community and they will deal with the problem."

The proposed curfew, however, has prompted concern from some who say it may add to problems in the area.

"I'm in favor of the curfew, but I still have concerns that this just criminalizes young people because they're out past the curfew," said the Rev. M. Andrew Robinson-Gaither, pastor of Faith United Methodist Church and a member of the advisory board working on the curfew plan. "There ought to be some creative ways of dealing with these problems that impact community safety other than randomly arresting young people and giving them a record."

Scully said the curfew is not expected to require additional funding, adding the station would use reserve and explorer units to enforce the curfew.

Information: Sheriff's Department at (310) 671-7531, or New Christian Fellowship Church at (213) 242-8784.

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