Starting next month, Columbus will step up its enforcement of a more than 30-year-old curfew law.

Starting next month, Columbus will step up its enforcement of a more than 30-year-old curfew law.

On June 5, the city will begin a 12-week curfew program with the help of the downtown YMCA.

The goal of the program is to keep youths off the street as a way to both keep them from causing trouble, or being taken advantage of by older people.

The design of the program is not to arrest youths, a key factor in how the program will be operated.

"That's not what we wanted to do we want to interview and work with the youth and the parents," said Seth Walker, an assistant public safety director for the city. "The biggest thing about this program is that it is not intended to be punitive -- that's key."

"We want them to understand that the best place to be at 1 or 2 a.m. is home."

Curfew for children age 12 and under is one hour after sunset to 4:30 a.m. For children ages 13 to 17, the curfew is midnight to 4:30 a.m.

The big change in the curfew is how police officers enforce the law. Aside from this, the law is the same.

Working with the YMCA, officers now have the choice of dropping youths off at a downtown facility, where they have to wait for a parent or guardian to pick them up.

The downtown YMCA has experience with similar situations because it is also Columbus' truancy center, Walker said.

The consequence for being out after curfew can affect both parents and children. The first offence will garner a three-hour workshop for parents and children, while the second offense could have the youth participate in community service.

Not until the third violation will a youth face charges; then, both the parent and youth could face a third-degree misdemeanor charge.

"We've taken those step to try and show we are not trying to drop the hammer on anybody," Walker said.

Walker said the addition of the YMCA's facility will help keep officers on the street. In the past, he said, officers had to decide if it was worth picking up youths and risk not being able to be dispatched.

"They've (police officers) been hindered in their efforts because there hasn't been a central location where they could drop a child off and get back on patrol," Walker said. "The officer ends up keeping the child in custody for a couple of hours and during that time the officer can't respond to calls."

Still, officers will continue to exercise discretion.

"If they feel it is the best use of the time, they can certainly pick the kid up and drop them off at home," Walker said. "Our officers are very good (about) knowing the neighborhood."

The program will run Thursday through Saturday, though the curfew will still be enforced on the other days of the week.

Don Heard, executive director of the YMCA Juvenile Justice Program, said the center's goal is to return youths back home within an hour of entering the building.

While at the center, the youths will be placed in a classroom environment, and go through a brief intake process.

"These kids will be getting on-the-spot counseling if they need it," Heard said.

Jeff Warner, a spokesman for Columbus City Schools, said the district and the city are working together to hand out information to students.

Warner couldn't give details because they are still being completed.