Heidelberg launches curfew; other areas may follow suit
November 3, 2004
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Heidelberg military community launched a curfew Monday designed to cut down on late-night vandalism and teenage rowdiness.
Depending on ages and whether it’s a school night, the curfew starts anywhere from 7 p.m. to midnight and lasts until 5 a.m.
The move comes as commanders in other military communities are considering similar measures.
“We’re looking at a curfew as well,” said Lt. Col. Melissa Sturgeon, commander of Mannheim’s 293rd Base Support Battalion.
Sturgeon has asked the mayors of her eight main housing areas to poll parents and other residents on the idea. They’re due to report back at Mannheim’s town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Sullivan Barracks. All Mannheim military housing area residents are encouraged to attend.
“There’s a lot of inappropriate behavior going on and this might be a good tool to help parents reduce that,” said Sturgeon. But she concedes, “We’re not even sure that it’s kids who are causing most of the problems, but I can tell you that our football fields and areas around the schools are being badly trashed with beer bottles and that people are finding, shall we say, paraphernalia from activities that should be done privately in a house.”
Asked what she thought of the new curfew in Heidelberg, one high school student quipped, “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like it’s going to stop people from going out.”
She may be right.
The military police in Heidelberg’s 411th Base Support Battalion have only seven patrols out at any given time — and that’s covering more than 20 installations.
“The reality is we’d have a hard time widely enforcing a curfew,” said Sturgeon, who said she suffers from a similar shortage of MPs.
But, say officials, at least with a curfew MPs and local commanders will be able to hold parents accountable for children caught out after hours. In Heidelberg, parents will get one warning if their children are caught outside after hours, before commanders become involved.
Limitations aside, officials want to see if a curfew helps.
“We’ll be watching what happens in Heidelberg very carefully,” said Sturgeon.
Heidelberg is just the latest in a growing number of family housing areas throughout Europe to impose curfews.
The Darmstadt area’s 233rd Base Support Battalion put a curfew into place for children 14 and under about three years ago.
“As far as I know it’s working out fine,” said Jayme Loppnow. “I talked to the MPs and they didn’t have anything bad to say about it.”
And it’s not just Army communities that are looking to curfews.
At the Navy’s air station in Sigonella, Sicily, for example, children 17 and under must be in by 11 p.m. Base playgrounds are off limits after 9 p.m.
The Air Force’s two main hubs in England — RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, children under the age of 18 must be at their home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:20 p.m. to 6 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays and on holidays.
The only exceptions: When kids are out with their parents, a legal guardian or a responsible adult who has taken charge of the child with parental consent.
Jason Chudy in Italy and Ron Jensen in England contributed to this report.