"Parents need to know where their kids are going, what they will be doing and who they are with," Police Chief Larry Pierce recently told The Brazil Times. "If we find their children out past curfew, we will enforce the curfew laws."
According to Pierce, officers could detain a child until the parents, guardians or a responsible family member can be found to take them home.
"Each case is handled on an individual basis," Pierce said. "Officers want to ensure the safety of our youngest residents. But, if there starts to be a pattern of bad behavior by the child or potential neglect by the parents, there is the possibility of court proceedings."
According to officials, there have been reports of parents using local events and businesses as "babysitters," leaving children at the establishments unattended and sometimes not coming back to get them.
"That's not a good situation for children to find themselves in," Pierce said about the incidents that could be potentially investigated for neglect.
However, Pierce said some parents are surprised to discover their child, who was supposed to be spending the night with a friend, was not where they should be when located by officers.
"It's nothing new. Kids have been doing things like that for years, but it's a new era and parents should take the time to verify the details and whereabouts of their children with other adults," Pierce said. "It's not a safe world out there."
Although embroiled in legal battles for years, the Indiana General Assembly continues to uphold and revise the curfew laws periodically to make sure they remain constitutional.
The law establishes times when juveniles are not allowed in public places, but leaves it up to the local law enforcement agencies of city governments, municipalities and towns to enforce the curfew.
Indiana Code 31-37-3-2 states that a law enforcement officer can write a citation and/or place a minor child in custody without a legal guardian present who is:
* Age 15 or younger in a public place between 11 p.m.-5 a.m. on any day of the week,
* Age 16 or 17 in a public place between 1-5 a.m., Saturday or Sunday mornings,
* Age 16 or 17 in a public place after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and
* Age 16 or 17 in a public place before 5 a.m., Monday through Friday.
The code allows for a minor to be out past the designated curfew if participating in, going to or returning from gainful employment, attending a school- or parental-sanctioned event, a religious, government or non-profit event, involved in an emergency situation or has been legally emancipated.
The curfew times aren't optional and juveniles should be home at or before curfew starts, not on the way home or out partying.
Pierce said there are problems with teenagers using empty houses for party spots and if a resident notices unusual activity at a vacant home, they need to contact authorities.
"This is a matter of safety for our children, because it's unknown what is going on inside in a situation like that and it could be anything, but at the minimum they are trespassing. Trespassing is also an issue when teenagers hang out at parking lots owned by local businesses."
Officials urge residents to contact the police when they see a large group of juveniles out past curfew.
"Any strange activity like that should be checked out," Pierce said.
Juveniles cited for a curfew violation will cost their parents $100 per the terms of the city ordinance. Punishment for curfew violation could also mean an appearance in juvenile court for allegations of delinquency against the child.
Punishment for violation of the state curfew law is more extensive.
Officials said juveniles cited in violation of the state curfew law are referred to Juvenile Probation and Clay Circuit Court for what is called an "informal adjustment." Juveniles may be placed on an informal type of probation for three months, ordered to serve 8-16 hours of community service and ordered to pay administrative costs of approximately $45 dollars.