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New Curfew Set for Cleveland Teens

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 10:58 AM

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Cleveland City Council took steps last night to try and curb rising youth violence and crime in the city. As expected, council members passed an emergency ordinance that will force young teens off the street earlier at night. ideastream's Dan Bobkoff reports.

Until now, 13- and 14-year-olds in Cleveland could roam the streets until 11 pm. At 11, they’d either need to be home or with an adult, or both the child and their parents would be in trouble. With Mayor Frank Jackson signing a new ordinance, however, those 13- and 14-year-olds will now need to get off the streets by 9:30 pm.

Nina Turner: Given the dangerous society that we live in today, I just thought 13- and 14-year-olds should have to come in earlier.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Nina Turner is responsible for the new ordinance. Last night’s vote was a victory in her effort to try and reduce crime by minors.

Nina Turner: If you’ve been keeping up with the rash of violence in the city of Cleveland, most of the juveniles who were involved were breaking some sort of curfew violation.

Turner hopes the earlier curfew will both protect the teens and keep them out of trouble. Curfews for other ages remain in effect. Those 12 and under must be supervised from darkness to dawn. 15- and 16-year-olds have to get off the streets from 11 pm to 6 am. And 17-year-olds have a midnight curfew in Cleveland.

At the city council meeting, there was at least one audience member firmly against the curfew: 13-year-old Nathaniel Whittsette.

Nathaniel Whittsette: Because I think 9:30 is too early time to have to go into the house in the summertime. Kids like to play in the summer.

Whittsette has an unlikely ally in his opposition to the curfew. James Alan Fox is a well-known professor of criminal justice at Boston’s Northeastern University.

James Alan Fox: Curfews may sound good, but they don’t work. Statistically, the evidence is they don’t work. But of course the reasons they are so politically popular is because the people most affected by the curfews - that is, kids - don’t vote.

Fox says curfews are a waste of time because most juvenile crime doesn’t happen late at night. The worst hours for getting in trouble, he says, are actually 3 to 8 pm. In fact, all sorts of adolescent malfeasance happens in the afternoon.

James Alan Fox: It’s also the prime time for drinking, drug use, even teen pregnancy.

Fox says curfews make more sense for certain teens, like those already on probation. He thinks lawmakers should focus more on funding activities and programs to keep kids occupied.

Councilwoman Turner acknowledges, though, that the ordinance is just a start in reducing crime.

Nina Turner: This won’t solve all the problems, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle in terms of helping to ignite in this city a sense of concern especially among parents that they are their child’s keeper and they have a responsibility to keep them safe, and part of that is keeping them off the streets.

She says police will continue their curfew sweeps to catch violators.

Last night, the city council also passed a measure to try and reduce graffiti. They banned the sale of spray paint to those under the age of 18. Dan Bobkoff, 90.3.

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