The city of Polson took a step Monday night toward reinstating a curfew ordinance for juveniles that was erroneously removed from the books five years ago.
At the Polson City Commission’s regular meeting, commissioners approved a first reading of an ordinance that amends the city’s municipal code to implement curfew hours for minors.
City Manager Ed Meece said the ordinance was eliminated by accident during a routine recodification process in 2017, and the city’s police requested an amendment to help them better manage potential illegal activity by minors late at night.
“Lake County continues to have a curfew ordinance,” Meece told commissioners. “The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a curfew ordinance that they enforce pretty well. So the Polson Police Department has asked that we reinstate this curfew provision in the city code.”
If passed, the ordinance will prohibit minors under the age of 18 from loitering upon or frequenting the streets, alleys or city property within city limits from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, or midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It also sets a penalty for an infraction at a $75 fine and/or up to 10 hours of community service.
The first reading passed on a unanimous vote with all members present except Commissioner Jan Howlett opf Ward 1. A second vote by the Commission is required to implement the ordinance, and that vote is tentatively scheduled for the May 2 meeting.
Polson Police Sgt. George Simpson addressed the commission prior to the vote to explain his department’s request.
“In the summer, when school is out and the kids are out playing … typically at night, during these hours, that’s when we see a lot of our property crimes go up,” Simpson said.
Simpson said the curfew is a tool for law enforcement to get minors off the streets, though officers wouldn’t be out simply writing citations.
“Our job is to educate and enforce. A lot of people don’t know about (the curfew), so we explain it to them. We typically bring them home and discuss it with their parents or guardians. When we have a curfew in place, we see those numbers go down, as far as property crimes and other nefarious activity.”
He said a curfew also helps cut down on underage drinking at night in the city’s parks.
“I don’t have the hard numbers with me, but it is significantly less,” Simpson said, adding that the hours listed in the proposed Polson ordinance match those in the county and CSKT curfew laws.
“This isn’t meant to target minors who are, say, coming home late from work, who have permission from their parents or guardian. … Just pretty much the people who are up to no good, loitering, not being where they’re supposed to be.”
Simpson said officers would undergo training on how to implement the curfew if it is passed.
In other business Monday, the Commission appointed Cori Monatukwa to the City-County Planning Board on a unanimous vote. The nine-member board consists of four members who are appointed by the city, four appointed by the county, and one appointed by the Lake County Conservation District. Prior to Monday’s vote, the board had just five current members. Monatukwa’s appointment leaves two vacancies among the city’s appointees and one among the county’s appointees. Members make land-use recommendations to city and county commissioners.
Commissioners also passed a resolution authorizing the disposal of surplus property owned by the city. Items listed include several vehicles as well as computers and other office equipment. Monday’s agenda, available at www.cityofpolson.com/meetings, includes a complete itemized list of items.