New laws target vandalism, blight

By Reggie Ellis

The Exeter City Council took steps at its Sept. 12 meeting to prevent juvenile delinquency, vandalism and junk cars in front yards from casting blight over the city.

Ordinance No. 06-642 would make it illegal to park any inoperable vehicle, vehicle parts, lubricants, paints or empty containers on the street, sidewalk, yard or driveway for more than 72 hours in a month. Residents would still be allowed to work on their cars if they had a permit for a carport, in their backyard if it is behind a 5 foot fence or a paved area that is more than 3 feet from any garage door and more than 5 feet from their side property line.

The law also prohibits home auto mechanics from working on their vehicles in front of their garage or house between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. &#8220if a nuisance is created.” Residents may work on their cars at night if it is an emergency for two hours, but must be able to prove that the work was an emergency.

The city of Exeter already had an ordinance against abandoned vehicles on the street, which Police Chief Cliff Bush said that officers have been aggressively enforcing. Since mid-July, Bush said that Exeter officers have impounded 122 vehicles abandoned on the street. The fine can be up to $250, plus the cost of towing and impounding the vehicle.

&#8220Our concern was that people would just start moving the cars from the street to their lawn or driveway,” he said. &#8220Now is the time to pass an ordinance to prevent that from creating a new problem.”

The council also passed Ordinance No. 06-641, which makes it illegal for students under the age of 18 to be out of school without supervision from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In other words, students can now be ticketed for skipping school or truancy. Fines for breaking curfew or skipping school are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third in a 12-month period. As they are minors, parents will be responsible for all fines.

When a student is not in school, the law states that &#8220the community as a whole suffers,” citing loss of educational opportunities for the student, loss of revenue for the school and an increase in vandalism, petty theft, loitering and other criminal activity when people are not at home during the daytime.

The law makes exceptions for emergency errands under the direction of a parent or guardian, going to and from school to a job or doctor's appointment, during lunch hours if permitted by the school, to attend a religious ceremony or funeral, and if the child is a custodial parent or guardian of another student under the age of 18.

&#8220Not all minors are required to be in school,” said City Attorney Steve Kabot. &#8220But those that are, are legally required to be there when school is in session.”

The city already has a curfew law that prohibits minors from being away from home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. if they are not accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, up until the last council meeting, there was no specific law prohibiting truancy by the city of Exeter.

Both laws passed unanimously. The new laws will take effect on Oct. 12 citywide. Chief Bush said the laws would be enforced with a &#8220common sense” approach to violations.

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