Aldermen want 8:30 p.m. curfew for Chicago kids under age of 12
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters July 7, 2011 12:10AM
“If I’m not there watching them, the curfew will help them stay in doors and out of trouble.” ~ VERONICA ARIZA, Northwest Side mother posing with her husband and four children under 12 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: July 7, 2011 9:00AM
Chicago kids under the age of 12 would have to be in the house by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends, under a curfew crackdown proposed by three South Side aldermen Wednesday to rein in “unsupervised” children.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Michelle Harris (8th) joined Aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th) and Lona Lane (18th) in proposing the revised curfew ordinance, the second in three years to turn back the curfew clock.
Several parents told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday that the proposal is just what’s needed at a time when some moms and dads aren’t taking their responsibilities seriously.
“We’re at a point where we have to be more conscious of where our children are,” said Toseima Jiles, 33, of Hyde Park, who has two boys, ages 6 and 5. “When I was growing up, your parents knew where you were, the neighbors knew where you were. ... I think we’re getting away from that.”
But parent Karen Hobbs dismissed the proposed curfew as a case of governmental meddling.
“It’s an attempt for the City Council to parent,” said North Sider Hobbs, 47, mother of a 3-year-old. “It’s up to parents to parent. I don’t think setting an arbitrary curfew at different ages is going to solve the problem.”
Two years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley turned back the curfew clock by 30 minutes — to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends for Chicago’s 730,000 kids under the age of 17.
At the time, Daley contended that the 30-minute rollback would “save many, many lives” and that, even if it saved just one life, it was “all worth the criticism.”
On Wednesday, Harris and Foulkes made that same argument to justify rolling up the sidewalks even earlier for kids under 12.
“I grew up in a community where the standard rule was children had to be in by the time the street lights came on. I’d be lucky if my parents let me out of the house when dinner was over,” Harris recalled. “It wasn’t that our communities were so terrible. It’s just that our parents knew how to protect us. This gives police another tool to help those parents who, maybe, don’t have the best parenting skills or understand that pulling a child off the street at a certain time is a protection. Many times, children are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That child should be in the house.”
Foulkes argued that “kids in our neighborhoods are out at all times of night” and it’s high-time that the City Council protect younger children.
“What happens to the eight-year-olds? They had the same curfew as the 17-year-old. If they’re walking on the street at night, they can be recruited by gang members,” Foulkes said.
Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields welcomed the curfew crackdown for younger kids.
“It’s about time we start pointing the finger back at the parent, instead of blaming the school teacher or the police,” Shields said.
But some parent groups questioned whether a tougher curfew really was getting to the heart of the matter.
“The city needs to give children more things to do rather than force them into confinement,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education.
A stricter curfew must be coupled with programs that teach better parenting skills, said Philip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project.
“I can live with a lower curfew for children under 13 as being part of a comprehensive fix,’’ Jackson said. “But if all you’re talking about is a tougher curfew for 12 year olds, that’s not going to fix anything.’’
Chicago’s curfew law has gotten progressively tougher for parents over the years.
In 1996, aldermen empowered police officers to seize vehicles driven by kids caught cruising after curfew to punish parents who turned over the keys.
Seven years later, the City Council agreed to put the financial squeeze on parents — by imposing fines of up to $500 after a third curfew violation within a year.
In 2006, the noose for parents got even tighter. They faced fines after even one curfew violation whenever their kids committed crimes after curfew. The following year, 398 fewer kids under 17 were victims of crime.
That was followed by Daley’s 2008 curfew rollback and a more lenient twist.
Instead of being slapped with citations and hauled off to the police station, violators of the city’s annual summer curfew crackdown in three high-crime districts were taken to Park District field houses. The idea was to connect them with recreational programs, social services, mentors and community organizations that offered positive alternatives to just hanging out on the streets.
Contributing: Rosalind Rossi