The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Fight for your right to party? Not in PG County

Prince+Georges+County+Executive+Angela+Alsobrooks+has+been+the+face+of+efforts+to+reduce+youth+crime+in+her+County+since+2018.+Following+late+Aprils+teenage+brawl+at+National+Harbor%2C+Alsobrooks+has+spoken+out+against+the+melee.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has been the face of efforts to reduce youth crime in her County since 2018. Following late April’s teenage brawl at National Harbor, Alsobrooks has spoken out against the melee.

Eight year old children beating each other, stealing from local businesses and smoking marijuana seems like a scene out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. However, that became reality last month when about 800 minors, some as young as eight years old, descended upon National Harbor in Prince George’s (PG) County, shoplifting, doing drugs and fighting in crowd brawls. Videos from the occurrence show hundreds of teens supposedly engaged in fights, before police showed up and dispersed them. In the wake of the chaos, County Executive and now Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks condemned the wanton violence, reaffirmed the county’s commitment to peace and lawfulness and went as far as to reinstate a youth curfew to keep the streets free of warring children from dusk to dawn.

Under PG County’s curfew, people under the age of 16 are not permitted to be at National Harbour without an adult from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. Such an initiative, Alsobrooks claims, is to ensure National Harbour stays a peaceful attraction, rather than a “day care or a playground.” Of course, it is hard to imagine any day care or playground allowing theft and fighting, much less the distribution and use of illicit substances, but Alsobrooks’ point stands: rules, even ones that do not fall under the law, need to be enforced, sometimes by any means necessary. The simple act of being a child at the National Harbour is not a crime and it would be asinine to suggest it is. Yet this wholly justified curfew is directed first and foremost at keeping these juveniles out of the streets to prevent the destructive action their presence would bring.

The teenage rampage that occurred at the National Harbour is not necessarily the fault of the county. Make no mistake, the government does not control the actions of minors, and it would be misinformed to suggest that it is the county’s responsibility to manage the lives of these children and keep them from “causing trouble,” as Alsobrooks puts it. Despite that, PG County has made every effort thus far to manage the situation. 800 teens did not occupy and decimate National Harbor overnight: rather, the signs of overdramatic teenage angst have been present for a long time, as have the county’s attempts to control it. Programs that had been set into motion previously were only expedited following the melee, according to Alsobrooks. The teenage free-for-all has pushed PG County and its residents to the limit, with irate business owners complaining about the skyrocketing youth crime, and police marveling at the pandemonium unfolding right next door to the National Harbour Police Station.

Ultimately, the primary onus is on the parents of these children to control their destructive tendencies. PG County police have claimed that they have found children as young as eight years old walking around National Harbour unaccompanied in the past. While it is easy to explain away the April brawl as “kids will be kids,” it is not sufficient to simply urge said parents to “take control of [their] children,” both claims Alsobrooks has made. Unfortunately, many of the morally dubious activities these minors have taken to are also present in their parents, simply to a more concealed degree due to the wider range of resources available to them. A call to action is far past the severity needed to keep these children indoors. While this curfew is an excellent first step, the problem is that it is not infallible. Violation of the curfew does not punish the offending juveniles, only their parents. Even then, the punishment is a lax one: fines ranging from $50 to $250 dollars are inconvenient and unwanted, but do not do much to dissuade minors from going out and committing the same actions again. In a single violent night, a productive teenager can steal well over $250 of product, making the fine a punishment in name only. Furthermore, the curfew only practically exists if the police can and will enforce it, and their meager resources are stretched thin throughout the county as it is. 

Story continues below advertisement

Should another crime session at the scale of April’s hit anywhere else in PG County again, the police would no doubt be overwhelmed, and at that point, the curfew may as well cease to exist. What the county truly needs are strong, even harsh, criminal laws against loitering and other related activities that disrupt the function of the county. Juveniles have the right to walk and gather at National Harbour without persecution, but these rights assume first and foremost that said juveniles do not pose an active disruption to the rights of others to exist peacefully. When teens and tweens gather in a public location to beat each other and loot local businesses, they are heavily infringing on the people’s deserved peace and security and not a single sane mind would brand such actions as anything short of unlawful. 

Simply put, there must be laws against the chaos that occurred last month, and more importantly, they must be enforced. Keeping rowdy teenagers out of the streets with a curfew is a temporary solution, a Band-Aid on the bullet hole of the compulsive urge to destroy. Law and order exists to keep people from doing bad things, and one would be hard pressed to find a PG County resident that argues reckless attacks and destruction are not bad things. These children do not necessarily deserve prison time: merely community service, probation or even a short stint in reeducation programs could yield universally beneficial results in PG County’s teenage crime problem. Angela Alsobrooks and other county leaders have sunk hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars into youth crime control initiatives, most of which have proven too soft, ineffective or downright useless. Surely after such a massive outbreak of violence they can spare some funds for stricter programs that might actually hold criminal teenagers accountable.

 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Maximus Wang, Promotions & Subscriptions Manager
Maximus Wang is a sophomore and one of the many Promotions and Subscription goons on the Observer staff this year. When he’s not slaving away for one cause or another, he’ll probably be contemplating his life decisions or having an identity crisis, and usually, both. 

Comments (0)

All The Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *