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Parents could face counseling for kids’ curfew violations

Guardian Angels 12-hour patrol Magnificent Mile CTA Red Line Chicago  Monday April 1 2013.  |  John H.

Guardian Angels on a 12-hour patrol of Magnificent Mile and CTA Red Line in Chicago, Monday, April 1, 2013. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 6, 2013 6:22AM

Chicago is “in for a rough summer” with “children taking over” the streets unless something is done to hold parents accountable, a West Side alderman warned Thursday.

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) vented her fears and frustrations about unruly teens before a City Council committee approved a crackdown on the parents of repeat curfew violators.

Sponsored by West Side Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), the ordinance would refer parents of chronic curfew violators to counseling and empower administrative hearing officers to compel those parents to attend.

Five days after an outbreak of wildings on North Michigan Avenue orchestrated on Facebook and Twitter involving 400 young people, Mitts said it’s time to get even tougher.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable for these children. The children are taking over and, if we don’t do something, we’re in for a rough summer. For the last two days, I’m out here on the street. This one got killed. This one’s fighting. That one’s fighting. These are kids. They’re taking over the streets. They’re taking over the restaurants,” Mitts said.

“We’re constantly saying parents need to be held accountable, but we’re just talking. We need to put some teeth in the talk. Otherwise, we’re gonna have the children taking over and parents will be sitting at home scared of their children. That’s what we have: a lot of parents afraid of these kids. They’re not in school. They’re out on the street disrespecting everybody and everything. You can’t even talk to ’em. . . . These youth are out of control.”

Last Saturday’s incidents on Michigan Avenue and a separate attack on a CTA Red Line train culminated in the arrest of 25 juveniles and three adults on a sunny and warm day that drew crowds to the Magnificent Mile.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly has argued that Chicago needs an early season surge in police visibility on Michigan Avenue, State Street and the lakefront to reassure visitors and send a message to menacing young thugs bent on bullying and destruction that it’s not worth the risk.

On Thursday, Mitts warned that the same problem is plaguing Chicago neighborhoods.

“They dance all over the street [and] in the restaurants, and they’re stopping traffic. When you get hundreds of kids doing this type of stuff, where are the parents?” she said. “I don’t know if the Police Department is gonna have enough resources to deal with these kids if we don’t start putting some stiff penalties for parents to be held accountable for these children as well as the curfew” violations.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Jim Balcer (11th) agreed with Mitts that parents should be held accountable. But Balcer said he was willing to start with Graham’s approach.

“Being offered these services instead of putting the . . . hammer down. [Saying], ‘Look, we have supportive services here. We have things that can help you,’ we can look for issues” that may be causing chronic curfew violations, Balcer said. “If we can save one child from going down the path of destruction and crime, that’s important. Instead of incarceration and fines, we have these things we can offer.”

Gene Roy, commander of youth investigations for the Chicago Police Department, said the counseling ordinance is aimed at parents struggling with problems such as alcohol and substance abuse and anger management.

“What we’re trying to do is provide the parents with the resources so they can improve their parenting skills, address any underlying conditions in the home,” Roy said. “The goal is to support the family so that we’re seeing the kids stay home and seeing the parents take charge of their respective households.”

In 2009, 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 17.

Chicago’s curfew remained the same until 2011, when it was rolled back even more for kids under 12 — to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

At the time, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy vowed to make curfew enforcement a priority after the number of citations issued by Chicago Police dropped steadily — from 23,275 in 2009 to 19,555 in 2010 and 8,398 for the first six months of 2011.

“I have to get tough on my commanders to make sure that they’re doing curfew [enforcement] so we don’t have young people getting shot late at night,” McCarthy said then. “As soon as a 15-year-old is shot at 12 o’clock at night, I want to know what the curfew numbers are in this location in this district.”

The earlier curfew for younger kids gave parents who exercise “insufficient control” what Mayor Rahm Emanuel called “three strikes” — fines as high as $500 or community service if their young kids get two curfew citations in a calendar year and up to $1,500 if it happens three times.

“I grew up with a curfew. When the lights on the street went on, you took your tail and made it home and [got] in the house. And that’s what I believe is the right policy for the safety and security of our kids,” Emanuel said then.

“It doesn’t mean that, because you have [curfew], kids are gonna be safe. But, it means that we’re aligning good parenting and the laws of the city.”

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