Township of Swatara, PA
Dauphin County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Swatara 9-8-1976 by Ord. No. 1976-34 (Ch. 6, Part 4, of the 1990 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]

§ 132-1 Title.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Curfew Ordinance."

§ 132-2 Purpose and findings.

This is a curfew ordinance prescribing, in accordance with prevailing community standards, regulations for the conduct of minors on streets at night, for the protection of younger children in the Township from each other and from other persons on the streets during nighttime hours, for the enforcement of parental control and responsibility for their children, for the protection of the public from nocturnal mischief by minors and for the reduction of the incident of juvenile criminal activity, all for the good of minors, for the furtherance of family responsibility, and for the public good, safety and welfare.
A. 
The Board of Commissioners finds that a curfew is a very real local need, necessary as a significant factor and tool to minimize juvenile delinquency in light of Swatara Township's local situation and facts, including the following: The Township is located in the southwest portion of Dauphin County, is bounded by the Susquehanna River and the adjacent municipalities of Lower Paxton Township, South Hanover Township, Hummelstown Borough, Derry Township, Lower Swatara Township, Steelton Borough, Paxtang Borough, Susquehanna Township and the City of Harrisburg. While containing residential, commercial, rural and industrial areas, the Township is essentially a residential community containing distinct areas of concentrated residential development. There is a general community sense of the need of cessation, at the proper time, of outdoor activities of minors on the street, this sense being reflected in the curfew hours declared by this chapter which takes into consideration also the danger hours for nocturnal crime and for accumulations of minors with potential risks incident to immaturity.
B. 
The Board of Commissioners finds that Swatara Township is not overcrowded. The population density, as reflected through a compilation derived from the Swatara Township Comprehensive Plan, is 2.49 persons per acre. The total area is 9,344 acres, the Susquehanna River or other stream beds representing 1,216 acres, for a total land area of 8,128 acres. Of this, 3,730 acres are devoted to residential land use, 1,642 acres are devoted to commercial use, 1,154 acres are devoted to industrial use, 423 acres are devoted to rural use, and 1,179 acres are areas where development is restricted. Population density is concentrated principally in the Lenker Manor, Oakleigh, Lawnton, Lawnford Acres, Rutherford, Chambers Hill, Oberlin, Enhaut, and Bressler areas of the Township. Recreational areas are provided in most of the densely compact residential areas; however, these facilities are generally closed for usage at times when the activities which this chapter attempts to prevent occur by minors who are running the streets.
C. 
The Board of Commissioners finds that there are 5,808 minors residing in Swatara Township. Swatara Township has nine elementary schools serving 1,823 minors, two junior high schools serving 976 minors and two senior high schools serving 1,950 minors.
D. 
The Board of Commissioners further finds that the Swatara Township population (1970 Federal census and 1976 School census compilation) is 17,235. There are approximately 4,500 households in the Township. The residential areas of the Township are principally stable family communities. Parental responsibility for the whereabouts of children is the norm, as parental control increases the likelihood of juvenile delinquency decreases and there is a need for the nocturnal curfew for the minors which will achieve under local conditions the purposes hereinbefore stated.

§ 132-3 Definitions and word usage.

For the purposes of this chapter, the following terms, phrases, words, and their derivations shall have the meanings given herein. When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future, words in the plural number include the singular and words in the singular number include the plural. The word "shall" is always mandatory and not merely directory.
MINOR
Any person under the age of 18, or, in equivalent phrasing often herein employed, any person 17 or less years of age.
PARENT
Any person having legal custody of a minor:
A. 
As a natural or adoptive parent;
B. 
As a legal guardian;
C. 
As a person who stands in loco parentis; or
D. 
As a person to whom legal custody has been given by order of court.
REMAIN
To stay behind, to tarry and to stay unnecessarily upon the streets, including the congregating of groups (or of interacting minors) totaling four or more persons in which any minor involved would not be using the streets for ordinary or serious purposes such as mere passage or going home. To implement that thought with additional precision and precaution, numerous exceptions are expressly defined in § 132-5 so that this is not a mere prohibitory or presence-type curfew ordinance. More and more exceptions become available with increasing years and advancing maturity as appropriate in the interest of reasonable regulation which is intended by use of the meaningful phrase "be or remain" found constitutional in Baker v. Borough of Steelton, 17 Dauph. 17 (1912), a decision properly classified in Thistlewood v. Trial Magistrate for Ocean City, 204 A.2d 688, 691 (Md. 1964) as relating to a curfew ordinance of the "remaining" type.
STREET
A way or place, of whatsoever nature, open to the use of the public as a matter of right for purposes of vehicular travel or in the case of a sidewalk thereof for pedestrian travel. The term "street" includes the legal right-of-way, including but not limited to the cartway of traffic lanes, the curb, the sidewalks whether paved or unpaved, and any grassplots or other grounds found within the legal right-of-way of a street. The term "street" applies irrespective of what it be called or formally named, whether alley, avenue, court, road or otherwise.
TIME OF NIGHT
Based upon the prevailing standard of time, whether Eastern standard time or Eastern daylight saving time, generally observed at that hour by the public in the Township, prima facie the time then observed in the Township administrative offices and police station.
TOWNSHIP
The Township of Swatara, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, with administrative offices at 599 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17111.
YEAR OF AGE
Continues from one birthday, such as the 17th to (but not including the day of) the next, such as the 18th birthday, making it clear that 17 or less years of age is herein treated as equivalent to the phrase "under 18 years of age," the latter phrase in practice, unfortunately, having confused a number of persons into the mistaken thought that eighteen-year-olds might be involved. Similarly, for example, 13 or less years of age means "under 14 years of age."

§ 132-4 Curfew for minors.

It shall be unlawful for any person 17 or less years of age (under 18) to be or remain in or upon the streets within the Township of Swatara at night during the period ending at 6:00 a.m. and beginning:
A. 
At 10:00 p.m. for minors 13 or less years of age;
B. 
At 11:00 p.m. for minors 14 or more years of age.

§ 132-5 Exceptions.

A. 
In the following exceptional cases a minor on a Township street during the nocturnal hours for which § 132-4 is intended to provide the maximum limits of regulation (and a clear general guide for minors, their parents and their fellow citizens) shall not, however, be considered in violation of the this chapter:
(1) 
When accompanied by a parent of such minor.
(2) 
When accompanied by an adult authorized by a parent of such minor to take said parent's place in accompanying said minor for a designated period of time and purpose within a specified area.
(3) 
When exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States Constitution, such as the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and the right of assembly. Such minor shall evidence the bona fides of such exercise by first delivering, to communications center personnel, at the Township Municipal Building at 599 Eisenhower Boulevard, where and by whom high priority messages to the Chief of Police are regularly received, a written communication, signed by such minor and countersigned if practicable by a parent of such minor with their home address and telephone number, addressed to the Chief of Police of the Township, specifying when, where and in what manner said minor will be on the streets at night (during hours when this chapter is otherwise applicable to said minor) in the exercise of a First Amendment right specified in such communication.
(4) 
In case of reasonable necessity but only after such minor's parent has communicated to the Township police station personnel the facts establishing such reasonable necessity relating to specified streets at a designated time for a described purpose including points of origin and destination. A copy of such communication, or of the police record thereof, duly certified by the Chief of Police to be correct, with an appropriate notation of the time it was received and of the names and address of such parent and minor, shall be admissible evidence.
(5) 
When the minor is on the sidewalk of the place where such minor resides, or on the sidewalk of either next-door neighbor not communicating an objection to the police officer.
(6) 
When returning home, by a direct route from (and within 30 minutes of the termination of) a school activity, or an activity of a religious or other voluntary association, of which prior notice, indicating the place and probable time of termination, has been given in writing to, and duly filed for immediate reference by, the Chief of Police or the officer assigned by him on duty at the police station, thus encouraging (here as in other exceptional situations) conduct on the part of minors involved in such activities and striking a fair balance for any somewhat conflicting interests.
(7) 
When authorized, by special permit from the Chief of Police, carried on the person of the minor thus authorized, as follows: When necessary nighttime activities of a minor may be inadequately provided for by other provisions of this chapter, then recourse may be had to the Chief of Police of the Township, either for a regulation as provided in Subsection A(8) or for a special permit as the circumstances warrant. Upon the Chief of Police's finding of necessity for the use of the streets to the extent warranted by a written application (as judicially approved in People v. Walton, 161 P.2d 498, 502-503, Cal App. 1945), signed by a minor and by a parent of such minor, if feasible, stating the name, age and address of such minor; the name, address and telephone number of a parent thereof; the height, weight, sex, color of eyes and hair and other physical characteristics of such minor; the necessity which requires such minor to remain upon the streets during the curfew hours otherwise applicable; and the street or route and the beginning and ending of the period of time involved by date and hour, the Chief of Police may grant a permit in writing for the use by such minor of such streets at such hours as in the Chief's opinion may reasonably be necessary. In an emergency this may be handled by telephone, or other effective communication, with a corresponding record being made contemporaneously, either to the Chief of Police or if unavailable to the police officer authorized by the Chief of Police to act on his behalf in an emergency, at the police station.
(8) 
When authorized, by regulation issued by the Chief of Police, in other similar cases of reasonable necessity, similarly handled but adapted to necessary nighttime activities of more minors than can readily be dealt with on an individual special permit basis. Normally such regulation by the Chief of Police permitting use of the streets should be issued sufficiently in advance to permit appropriate publicity through news media and through other agencies such as the schools, and shall define the activity, the scope of the use of the streets permitted, the period of time involved not to extend more than 30 minutes beyond the time for termination of such activity, and the reason for finding that such regulation is reasonably necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter.
(9) 
When the minor carries a certified card of employment, renewable each calendar month when the current facts so warrant, dated or reissued not more than 45 days previously, signed by the Chief of Police and briefly identifying the minor, the addresses of his home and of his place of employment, and his hours of employment.
(10) 
When the minor is, with parental consent, in a motor vehicle. This contemplates normal travel. From excess of caution, this clearly exempts bona fide interstate movement through the Township of Swatara, particularly on normal routes such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, U.S. Route 322 and Interstate Routes 83 and 283. This also exempts interstate travel beginning or ending in Swatara Township.
(11) 
When the minor is 17 years of age, if and when the Chief of Police shall have determined, by formal rule first reported to and approved by the Board of Commissioners, spread upon its minutes and so reported in the press, finding the facts as to the extent (minimal) of juvenile delinquency in such age group permitting such rule, currently, in the best interests of said minors and of the Township, finding that this chapter should be relaxed, then the Chief of Police by such formal rule, covering a period of time designated therein or until rescission thereof not exceeding one year from the date thereof, may take appropriate action excepting designated minors, minors in a defined group or area, or all minors (as the current facts may warrant) 17 years of age at that date or attaining 17 years of age during the period that such formal rule is and remains in effect.
B. 
Each of the foregoing exceptions, and their several limitations such as provisions for notification, are severable, as hereinafter provided but here reemphasized; and additional, also severable, exceptions, broadening with the progress toward maturity of minors enrolled respectively in elementary, junior high and high schools, will be considered by the Board of Commissioners as warranted by future experience illuminated by the views of student government associations, school personnel, citizens, associations, ward, precinct and neighborhood spokesmen, parents, officers and persons in authority concerned positively with minors as well as with juvenile delinquency.

§ 132-6 Parental responsibility.

It shall be unlawful for a parent having legal custody of a minor knowingly to permit or by inefficient control to allow such minor to be or remain upon any Township street under circumstances not constituting an exception to, or otherwise beyond the scope of, this chapter. The term "knowingly" includes knowledge which a parent should reasonably be expected to have concerning the whereabouts of a minor in that parent's legal custody. It is intended to continue to keep neglectful or careless parents up to a reasonable community standards of parental responsibility through an objective test. It shall, a fortiori, be no defense that a parent was completely indifferent to the activities or conduct or whereabouts of such minor.

§ 132-7 Police procedures.

A policeman of the Township, upon finding or having attention called to any minor on the streets in prima facie violation of this chapter, normally shall take the minor to the Township police station, where a parent shall immediately be notified to come for such minor, whereupon they shall be interrogated. This is intended to permit ascertainment, under constitutional safeguards, or relevant facts, and to centralize responsibility in the officer there and then on duty for accurate, effective, fair, impartial and uniform enforcement, and recording, thus making available experienced supervisory personnel, the best of facilities and access to information and records. In the absence of convincing evidence such as a birth certificate, a policeman on the street shall in the first instance use his best judgment in determining age.
A. 
Police procedures shall constantly be refined in the light of experience and may provide, inter alia, that the policeman may deliver to a parent thereof a minor under appropriate circumstances, for example, a minor of tender age near home whose identity and address may readily be ascertained or are known.
B. 
In any event such policeman shall within 24 hours file a written report with the Chief of Police, or shall participate to the extent of the information for which he is responsible in the preparation by himself and the officer involved in such case, and in the filing, of such report within 24 hours.
C. 
When a parent, immediately called, has come to take charge of a minor, and the appropriate information has been recorded, the minor shall be released to the custody of such parent. If the parent cannot be located, or fails to take charge of the minor, then the minor shall be released to the juvenile authorities, except to the extent that in accordance with police regulations, approved in advance by juvenile authorities, the minor may temporarily be entrusted to a relative, neighbor or other person who will on behalf of a parent assume the responsibility of caring for the minor pending the availability or arrival of a parent.
D. 
In the case of a first violation by a minor, if the parent comes for the child, said parent shall be given a written notice of said violation with a warning that any subsequent violation will result in full enforcement of this chapter, including enforcement of parental responsibility and of applicable penalties, and said parent shall upon receipt of said notice sign a written receipt therefor; if the parent does not come for the child, the Chief of Police shall by certified mail send the aforesaid written notice to the parent.

§ 132-8 Violations and penalties.

[Amended 4-11-1990 by Ord. No. 1990-1]
Prevailing community standards, and the real internalization thereof or interpersonal sanctions therefor that in practice count for much, as to when minors should be off the streets, reflected in this chapter, are hereby undergirded with the following legal sanctions:
A. 
If, after the warning notice pursuant to § 132-7 of a first violation by a minor, a parent violates § 132-6 (in connection with a second violation by said minor), this shall be treated as a first offense by the parent. For such first parental offense a parent shall be fined $25 and for each subsequent offense by a parent the fine shall be increased by an additional $25; e.g., $50 for the second, $75 for the third offense. The Magisterial District Judge, upon finding a parent guilty, shall sentence the parent to pay such fine and the costs of prosecution, and upon refusal to pay such fine and costs to be imprisoned in the jail of Dauphin County for a period not exceeding 30 days. Every day that a violation of this chapter continues shall constitute a separate offense.
B. 
Any minor who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter more than three times shall be reported by the Chief of Police to a society or organization whose purpose it is to take charge of incorrigibles and delinquents and proceedings shall then be commenced, under the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6301 et seq., for the treatment, supervision and rehabilitation of such minor.
[Amended 9-8-2004 by Ord. No. 2004-6]
C. 
A like procedure, before the juvenile authorities, shall be followed in any case where the imposing of a fine or fines upon a parent shall not be effective, or where for any other reason the provisions of this chapter cannot be made effective by the imposing of penalties under this section.

§ 132-9 Construal of provisions.

Severability is intended throughout and within the provisions of this chapter. If any provision, including, inter alia, any exception, part, phrase or term, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances shall not be affected thereby and the validity of this chapter in any and all other respects shall not be affected thereby. From excess of caution, the Chief of Police is authorized to give advisory opinions, in writing or immediately reduced to writing, which shall be binding, and shall be adhered to by the police, until the chapter is amended in such respect, interpreting terms, phrases, parts or any provisions. Normally such advisory opinions shall be in response to good faith, signed letters addressed to him at the Township administration building, questioning as a) ambiguous, b) as having a potentially chilling effect on constitutional rights specifically institutional rights specifically involved, or c) as otherwise invalid, in all three categories with respect to proposed conduct definitely described. This administrative remedy must be exhausted prior to presenting to any court a question in any of said three categories. The Board of Commissioners does not intend a result that is absurd, impossible of execution or unreasonable. It is intended that this chapter be held inapplicable in such cases, if any, where its application would be unconstitutional. A constitutional construction is intended and shall be given. The Board of Commissioners does not intend to violate the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the Constitution of the United States of America.

§ 132-10 Continuing evaluation.

The Board of Commissioners will continue its evaluation and updating of this chapter.
A. 
Accordingly, there shall be compiled and informally reported to the Board of Commissioners through effective channels (such as the normal monthly distribution by the Township Secretary, to each Commissioner, the Chief of Police and the Township Solicitor, of noteworthy material) all exceptional cases hereunder of reasonable necessity, the notices of school and other activities, the Chief of Police's special permits and the Chief's regulations hereinbefore authorized, and the Chief's advisory opinions, for consideration by the appropriate committee and by the Board of Commissioners in further updating and continuing evaluation of this chapter.
B. 
For the same reasons, as well as for the implementation beyond these legal aspects of the basic purposes hereof, the Chief of Police and relevant committees of the Board of Commissioners through their respective chairmen in coordinated efforts shall work with existing, and may organize, voluntary groups, and shall stimulate volunteer leadership, in programs of research and of action dealing constructively on neighborhood and local bases with juvenile delinquency, and the prevention, control or containment thereof, in all its ramifications and with practicable steps toward the good life, and a better life, for minors 17 or less years of age, and with the working of this chapter, community-wise and in individual cases, as one much needed legal tool toward that end as well as for continuing present protection of minors and of other persons, and of property and other persons, and of property and other interest, important to the welfare of the people of the Township of Swatara.