Bluffton Today Column 7/16: Could Bluffton Use Youth Curfews?

Here’s the link to the story, published July 16.

Here’s the text

Curfews sound scary, but it’s certainly not a silly idea


Tim Wood

Hardeeville’s interim police chief has spread the word that he plans to propose a 9 p.m. curfew for kids aged 17 and younger.

A few friends in the town next door texted me over the weekend and said they were hearing some of these rumblings. Then, The Island Packet reported the story Monday morning, as interim chief Sam Woodward threw a test balloon in the air to see how the public would react.

Well, here’s a reaction, chief: Not only is it a great thing for Hardeeville, but I think Bluffton should adopt the same rule.

Hardeeville already has a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. but Woodward is looking to propose the rule to town leaders soon that would extend it to 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

It’s an age-old saying: Nothing good happens after midnight. And it’s never been truer than in what’s going on in Hardeeville currently.

The police are investigating a string of 15 car thefts in Beaufort and Jasper counties between March and June. Woodward thinks those thefts could have been prevented with an earlier curfew.

That might be a stretch and a way to deflect the conversation away from the fact that the thefts are happening and that crime is spreading in the town.

Nonetheless, the idea holds a lot of merit for both Hardeeville and Bluffton.

Tell me one good thing that happens when tweens and teens congregate without adults at night. You could think for a week and you couldn’t come up with one.

Go to the movies at Cinemark on a weekend night and you’ll likely have to work your way through a cluster of youngsters hanging out in the outside pavilion. Why? They have nothing better to do.

We have done a horrific job of creating family-friendly activities in the Lowcountry. As the parent of 11- and 5-year-old sons, I can vouch for the criminal lack of entertainment options.

Get up to the teens, and the options nearly disappear. No teen clubs, no afterschool hangouts. There is nothing.

The lack of financial attention paid to recreational activities is equally disturbing. While The Boys & Girls Club and Beaufort County PALS do admirable jobs with the resources they have, we as a region are just not doing the things to stay out in front of the demand.

So what are kids left with? Get in trouble online or loiter somewhere they shouldn’t be.

The Bluffton police have bigger issues to deal with at the moment. But this is one of those issues that can creep up on us real quick and turn into a real burden.

I’m not going all “these kids today” on you, but there is a idiocy mixed with a rebellion in today’s children, where common sense is tossed aside at the prospect of doing something crazy that may go viral on YouTube.

I have heard too many stories of busted up mailboxes, random fires started on lawns (yes, I actually put one of those out for neighbors as the kids ran away from their little joke), cars getting keyed and community spaces like pools being vandalized to tell you there’s no problem in Bluffton.

Community watches pay dividends and keep a lot of the after-dark street wandering to a minimum. But as communities grow, the volume of incidents is going to increase.

It would be much easier to pin a lot of the stories we hear to kids being kids, “getting all the stupid out,” as my friend puts it.

Sure, this might fall into excessive policing, but in a day and age where we all want to feel safe in our houses, keeping kids out of harm’s way to make bad decisions is resonating with today’s parents.

But there’s a core concern that resonates just as much in Bluffton as it does in Hardeeville: There is just no point to kids being out past 9 p.m.

The ordinance currently in place in Hardeeville is rarely enforced. The fines aren’t bankrupting anyone — it’s more of an inconvenience and a deterrent than something that is going to turn into a profitable law.

What may save lives in Hardeeville is more of an isolated nuisance in Bluffton. For now.

Make no mistake about it. This is a problem that is brews beneath the surface for a long time. The more we take for granted now, the more we morph into a Hardeeville situation.

I wish we were in a situation where we could let our kids roam until all hours like we did in our youth.

Curfew sounds like such a militant word, but it doesn’t have to be.

Really, when it comes down to it, we’re in a time when we’re being forced to enforce common sense.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at

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