Opposition Raised Over Decision Between Trenton, NJ Police and City Faith Leaders to Drop Off Juveniles Who Break Curfew at Local Churches

Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr,(l)and Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian
Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr, (l)and Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson Gregg Slaboda – The Trentonian

Police in New Jersey’s capital city have reinstated a curfew for juveniles, but the decision to drop some of them at area churches has led to push back from critics who believe the ordinance breaks church-and-state separation and arbitrarily targets Trenton’s youth.

Last month, police in Trenton began enforcing a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew for kids under 18. Law enforcement has worked in concert with city heads and faith leaders in an agreement to drop off juveniles at certain faith-based organizations during those hours.

Pastor Terry Wells has worked with some of the teens through his ministry, My Brother’s Keeper Outreach Ministries. It’s one of about a half dozen faith-based organizations working with police to offer safe havens for city youth.

Where Wells sees an opportunity to foster “unity for kids, for police and for community,” Ian Smith, staff attorney for Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sees a muddied line between religious and governmental involvement.

“It’s another example of a disturbing trend within the criminal justice system that sort of equates going to church with not being a criminal,” he said.

City police have only picked up about two dozen kids for breaking curfew since enforcement began mid-July, a number lower than what police expected.


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