SALISBURY, Md. -- Concerns about where exactly teens would be detained under a proposed curfew were expressed at a public forum in Salisbury on Thursday evening.
A room overflowing with more than 50 parents, students and residents discussed the possibility of enacting a citywide curfew during a community meeting inside St. Paul's AME Church on Delaware Avenue.
Attendance at Thursday's meeting starkly contrasted the turnout at the same kind of public forum hosted by the city at St. Francis de Sales Parish Center the previous night, where around 25 residents showed up.
Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton and Police Chief Barbara Duncan outlined specifics of the draft curfew ordinance.
Under the ordinance, teens ages 14-17 would be required to return home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Friday through Sunday during the summer and holidays. On weeknights Monday through Thursday, the curfew would begin one hour earlier at 10 p.m. during the school year.
Children under 14 years of age would be required to have adult supervision at all times after curfew hours.
Many parents and students at the meeting shared concerns about how parents will be affected, what evidence proves curfews work and how would the city and county police work together to enforce the curfew.
But of primary concern to a number of residents at the meeting focused on where detained teenagers would be held between 10 or 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Wicomico County Board of Education member Mark Thompson proposed a volunteer-operated intake facility.
"There was a program that I saw in San Francisco where police opened up this evening reporting center," said Thompson, "which we need in Wicomico County."
Thompson suggested an after-hours center where teens would undergo comprehensive assessments performed by volunteers from the county's health and social services departments.
Thompson said the parents or guardians would also need to be involved in the assessment, so as to figure out a long-term plan that would assist them to keep track of their children.
"We also bring the parent in to find out what needs to they have," Thompson said. "We do a complete assessment and when they leave, they have something tangible in their hands.".
The mayor and police chief seemed receptive to the idea that a curfew alone will not be enough and additional provisions would be necessary to ensure that parents, and not just juveniles, have support from trained professionals.
Some residents, including Towson University student Makya Purnell, who grew up in Salisbury, said a curfew is not the answer.
"These kids already don't trust law enforcement," said Purnel. "It's a very sensitive time right now. They see this as another enemy. A person is coming to take them from the streets to some reporting center against their will."
"Do you think," Purnell added, "that they're going to open and say, 'Oh I have this going on at home, this is why I was out.' They don't trust you to open to you about that."
Purnell made points during the forum discussion that much of the community, including Ireton and Duncan, deemed as valid concerns.
Despite some opposition to the logistical details, many at the meeting agreed that a curfew and additional curfew provisions are likely needed as a starting point to help Salisbury's struggling teens and families.
The next public forum on the proposed citywide curfew will be on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. inside the Chipman Cultural Center on Broad Street in Salisbury.