Just about anyone who lived in Geneva in the1950s or 1960s remembers some kid getting into trouble and being brought home to their parents by the cops. Capraro, who lived on Cortland Street back then, recalls police were a regular presence at the old school playground. Those days are long gone-- the stuff of nostalgia-- but holding families more accountable for the actions of their children is still a good idea. We need to provide our police with resources for dealing with juvenile violations without requiring them to ‘babysit’ kids. After listening to what Charlie Davis, head of the Dorchester Ave Neighborhood Watch, had to say about his group’s proposal for a “curfew,” it makes sense to us. Only we wouldn’t call it a curfew.
We did some research on “juvenile curfew laws.” [Click here for a report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice] Technically, a curfew is setting a specific time that people have to be off the streets, or in their homes. Oftentimes, the curfew is enforced through general sweeps of neighborhoods, bringing any curfew violators to a central ‘holding center’ for processing before release. [See more details here] So, our initial reaction to a curfew is that it overburdens our police and the taxpayers by requiring labor-intensive enforcement and construction or renovation of some space to serve as the detention center.
But that’s not what Charlie Davis’ proposal calls for. According to Davis, children under the age of 18 would still be allowed out at night. It’s when they misbehave that things would change. For certain classes of violations, the police would be empowered to bring children home to their parents, instead of down to the station for elaborate processing. Their parents would have to take responsibility for their children, receive an appearance ticket and have to pay a fine, similar to the way parking tickets are handled. This seems reasonable and we think it would be effective.
As we see it, the proposal accomplishes three important objectives:
- It empowers the police to re-connect children with their families almost immediately, without requiring them to get into the “family counseling” business. Therefore, they’d be doing less social service work, and would be back on their beats.
- It provides for simplified follow up for certain kinds of violations. Serious crimes would, of course, not be handled in that manner.
- Its primary goal is to involve families in crime prevention. It’s pulling families into a Neighborhood Watch of their own children.
What does work in reducing crime is prevention, and the Davis proposal is essentially a prevention program involving families and communities.
We think the next step here in Geneva is for Council to see the Neighborhood Watch’s fully developed proposal and solicit input from the police officers, perhaps through a briefing from Chief Pane. We can then ask City Attorney, Clark Cannon, for a legal opinion both on issues of legality and enforcement. In our view, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to have a proposal ready for a public hearing. In the meantime, we encourage interested residents of all ages, to get involved in the community effort that Davis is leading to move this proposal forward.
The next meeting will be Wednesday, May 30th at 6:30pm at the Geneva Public Library.