Ald. Foulkes: New curfew a matter of safety

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On a hot and humid Chicago summer night in the 6800 block of South Evans Avenue, nearly a dozen children were still outside at 11 p.m., playing on the pitch black corner with no street lights, riding their bikes and intensely involved in a game of basketb

On a hot and humid Chicago summer night in the 6800 block of South Evans Avenue, nearly a dozen children were still outside at 11 p.m., playing on the pitch black corner with no street lights, riding their bikes and intensely involved in a game of basketball.

But if Ald. Toni Foulkes’ (15th) proposed changes to the city’s curfew ordinance are passed at Thursday’s City Council meeting, most of those kids and others throughout the city, would have to be in the house – or off of public thoroughfares – by 8:30 p.m.

The current curfew ordinance states that a child under the age of 17 cannot be outside or in a public place from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11p.m. until 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

But with youth safety on community leaders’ minds in a city that, by June 30, has seen 185 murders, Foulkes said the younger kids should be in the house a little earlier.

She wants children under the age of 12 to be off of public byways by 8:30 p.m. on the weekdays and 9 p.m. on the weekends. The current curfew, she told the Defender, “gives way too much leeway.”

“A 5-year-old has the same ordinance as a 17-year-old,” said Foulkes. “It’s basically just to protect those children.”

In some of the city’s toughest communities, so far this summer there have been dozens of shootings and youth, including 9-year-old Ivan Burns of Roseland, have been caught in the crossfire.

Some parents like the proposed curfew and say they have already implemented earlier times for their youngsters to be home.

“I completely agree with the newly proposed curfew law. I personally do this already so it wouldn’t change anything for me however most of the parents younger than me would find it a burden,” said LaTonya McCarter, mother of two daughters ages 11 and 6.

Some parents feel laws don’t take the place of parental guidance.

“There is no communication between some parents and their children. Maybe they don’t know any better because so many kids are having kids and don’t know how to express these values because their parents didn’t do it with them,” said Dawanna Torres-Neely, mother of three. “It will (be) up to each individual parent to enforce this law with their children and unfortunately, not all of them will feel the same as I do.”

Torres-Neely supports the proposed ordinance.

Foulkes pointed out that last year there were 19,500 cited curfew violations in Chicago.

Under the current curfew law, scofflaw parents face a fine of up to $500. The proposed curfew ordinance will include this fine and add an option for community service, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said.

Beale has publicly questioned some aspects of the Foulkes ordinance, saying that it seems to “penalize” youth and curtail them enjoying the summer weather and their summer break from school.

The alderman said he does “understand the concept of the ordinance, because we want our kids to be safe and out of harms way. I do support that aspect of the ordinance.”

Big cities around the country, which also grapple with crime and murder, have curfew laws similar to Chicago’s current one. Chicago would be alone in having an 8:30 curfew for youth 12 years old and younger.

A public affairs spokesman for the city of Houston explained that youth there under the age of 17 have to be off of public streets by 11 p.m. on weekdays, midnight on weekends.

Houston’s only specification for kids under 17 is during the school year and during summer school; they are required to be in school 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on school days.

Los Angeles curfew puts young ones under 17 off public areas at 10 p.m. everyday, a spokeswoman in Los Angeles Police Department public affairs office told the Defender.

The southern California city of 4 million people has seen 156 murders so far this year, according to crime information posted on the LAPD website.

New York City, however, has no curfew law set for minors, according to a public affairs officer in Brooklyn’s 60th precinct of the New York Police Department

There have been 254 murders to date in New York, according to crime information posted on the NYPD website.

Foulkes feels the new curfew in Chicago will be a way to keep children safe and unharmed.

And even with his reservations, Beale is expected to support the ordinance Thursday.

“I’m a big supporter of having kids outside in the summer because that’s what Chicago is all about,” said Beale, whose ward is home to the Roseland Little League. “Overall I support the ordinance because we have to get our kids off the street.”

Defender Staff Writer Rhonda Gillespie contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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