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Rahm Emanuel, Garry McCarthy support earlier curfew for kids

Updated: October 25, 2011 12:29AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on Thursday embraced a controversial proposal to turn back the curfew clock for Chicago kids under the age of 12 — to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Their formidable support — echoed by community policing chief Ron Holt — makes it likely the City Council will carve out an earlier curfew time for younger kids at the behest of three South Side aldermen who want to protect unsupervised kids and put the heat on indifferent parents.

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. The curfew is currently the same for younger kids.

“I advocated for curfew laws while serving President Clinton because I believe the safest place for a child is at home,” Emanuel said in a written response to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I commend the aldermen for introducing this ordinance and I am fully supportive. But, while the government can do its part, we need parents to do theirs. We need parents to help make sure their children are home safe where they belong.”

McCarthy agreed that an earlier curfew for younger kids can only help protect them.

“Anything we can do to get kids off the street can assist us in reducing violence. If kids are not on the street, they can’t get injured,” the superintendent said.

“Crime reduction is about [using] all the tools in the tool box. Truancy statutes are another tool. I like the concept. The details have to be fleshed out a little more. It also doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of parents to ensure kids are being parented. The problem will be if the kids go right out the back door of the house.”

Likening curfew laws to anti-crime cameras, McCarthy said, “It’s like chicken soup. They can’t hurt, but I never saw them cure cancer. But, if you combine cameras with intelligent police work that puts cops where gun violence is most likely to happen and get kids off the street, it’s going to have an effect. Tie it all together and you have success stories.”

Holt is the police officer father of Blair Holt — a 16-year-old gunned down on a CTA bus in May, 2007 by a reputed gang member who opened fire on a crowd of students on their way home from Julian High School. As shots rang out, Blair sacrificed his own life to save a friend.

On Thursday, the elder Holt argued that an earlier curfew would help protect kids going through, what he called, those treacherous “tween years.”

“We would probably decrease the kids getting into trouble or becoming victims of crime. And for parents who are not paying attention and let that child run wild in the streets, it’ll make them pay more attention to how long their child is out of the house,” Holt said.

“If I had a child under 12, I would want that child to be inside the house, in the backyard where I can see them or with another responsible adult who I’ve given permission to be with [after dark]. If not, you have kids who may be filled with a lot of energy and curiosity and they can wonder off.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th), Toni Foulkes (15th) and Lona Lane (18th) want Chicago kids under 12 to be in the house by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

That’s even though the sun sets after 8:30 p.m. for several weeks during the summer, luring kids outside.

Chicago’s curfew law has gotten progressively tougher over the years.

Frustrated aldermen have empowered police officers to seize vehicles driven by kids caught cruising after curfew and put the financial squeeze on parents — by imposing fines of up to $500 after a third curfew violation within a year and by imposing fines after one violation when kids commit crimes after curfew.

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