The city has announced that one of its programs to combat youth violence this summer will be to step up enforcement of the 11 p.m. curfew for children under the age of 17 on weekends. But in certain high-crime districts, those weekend curfew violators wil
The city has announced that one of its programs to combat youth violence this summer will be to step up enforcement of the 11 p.m. curfew for children under the age of 17 on weekends. But in certain high-crime districts, those weekend curfew violators will not go directly to jail. They will go to the park.
The idea is that violators will be picked up and instead of being whisked off to the pokey, they will be taken to the park district buildings at Ogden Park, Harris Park and Piotrowski Park. There they will be counseled by park district personnel about the programs run by the park district and community organizations. Their parents will be contacted and allowed to come and get them at the park, instead of at the jail.
If the parents cannot be contacted, the curfew violators will then get their time behind bars. On weekdays, from Sunday night through Thursday night, when the curfew is 10 p.m., curfew scofflaws will go directly to the police station for processing.
Some have touted this as a way to spare young people the ignominy and trauma associated with jail time. They point out that sending children under the age of 17 to jail could create a lifelong emotional scar. And sending the young people to the parks will familiarize them with the services there, so that they might opt to join in, rather than just hang out on the streets.
But if the city is serious about keeping the children safe this summer and fall (the program runs through October), the plan should be to step up enforcement of the curfew. There is a reason those young people are on the streets at 11 p.m., and that points to both their own responsibility and the responsibility of the adults in their lives.
We are not na∩ve enough to think that the curfew law by itself will keep young people in their homes after hours. Eleven at night doesn’t seem so late, especially if everyone is doing it, and especially if the parents either actually condone it, or condone it by their indifference.
But our streets have not been safe for our young people – even in friendlier hours – so keeping young people off the streets during late hours has shown to be one tool to help save lives. The idea of keeping some of them from the experience of being locked in jail is also welcome.
That means that parents, not police, should be the primary enforcers of the curfew. Whether or not you agree with it, it is the law. Of course, that parental enforcement and responsibility should also extend to other youthful activities.
We look forward to seeing just how well this pilot program does. The idea is for it to act as a deterrent (as if the $500 fine for parents is not enough), to keep young people off dangerous streets after hours. Providing information about park district activities and sparing jail time should entice parents to support the plan.
Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.