WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Downtown West Palm Beach will be off-limits to minors for part of this holiday. Police are making a Christmas night curfew even earlier this year, to stop any potential criminal activity before it starts.
A massive sign here on Okeechobee Boulevard - the gateway to downtown - is a warning for teens and parents alike. No one under the age of 18 will be allowed unsupervised in the heart of the city.
Warm holiday wishes are coming with a warning from police. "That area contains a lot of bars, a lot of drinking establishments, really no place for a minor to be unattended," said West Palm Beach Police Capt. Tony Spatara.
On Friday, new signage was placed around downtown alerting visitors that no one under the age of 18 without supervision will be allowed after 9 p.m. on Christmas. "A lot of people are fearful of groups of juveniles that cluster together," said Captain Spatara. "Sometimes they are not on their best behavior."
Downtown resident David Bradley is one of those people. "When you have unsupervised teenagers, you have chaos," he said. Bradley applauds the efforts of authorities to keep kids without a parent or guardian from roaming city streets.
"They could hurt themselves and other people," said Bradley. "It's hard to say that but that's the hard, raw truth and the police know that."
Police have enacted curfews in previous years, but this year the Christmas curfew was moved an hour earlier. The area that will be off-limits runs from Okeechobee Boulevard north to Banyan Boulevard and from the Intracoastal to Australian Avenue.
Elise Burnett, 12, believes well behaved young people should be allowed to be downtown unattended. "They should be able to come here by themselves, even on Christmas," she said.
Burnett also questions why anyone would not want to be at home with family or friends for the holiday. "I think it would be a good idea to be with their parents, because Christmas is about being with your parents."
West Palm Beach Police and residents like Bradley hope more teens would have that same kind of holiday spirit. "They feel like they can do just about anything, without any consequence," said Bradley.
There is a consequence for those under age 18 who break this curfew. Authorities say the young people would be detained by police and have to be picked up at the police station by a parent or guardian.
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