It took some doing, but City Council finally met to discuss “neighborhood safety” in the aftermath of a murder, an apparently related shooting, and the mobilization of two neighborhood watch groups calling for a Council decision on a curfew. Not long after our post about the need for a meeting, Mayor Cass called a meeting for the following Tuesday.
The meeting went well, but, how would anyone know? Where was the Finger Lakes Times? The City Clerk sent notices about the meeting to local media, but none attended.
The meeting featured a professional, respectful discussion of several aspects of youth violence, and of the possibilities for helping families and neighborhoods restore normalcy to their lives. The Mayor distributed a draft of the ‘charge’ he gave to the newly formed “Neighborhood Safety Task Force.” The Task Force has been asked to discuss strategies for stabilizing neighborhoods and reducing youth violence.
Council discussion quickly turned to the curfew question. Councilor D’Amico, who chairs the Neighborhood Safety Committee, agreed to ask the Task Force whether a curfew is a good idea for Geneva and bring their recommendation to Council in time for the second meeting in September (scheduled for 9/19), and that was added to their charge.
If the committee recommended going forward with a curfew, and if Council were to agree (which seems likely) there would be a first reading at that meeting on the 19th. A curfew could go into effect after a second reading in October.
Augustine questioned City Attorney Clark Cannon as to whether council could enact a temporary curfew immediately to take us through the remaining warm weather. He indicated that council could take emergency action of that sort, but Councilors D’Amico and Greco urged Council not to “get out ahead” of the Committee’s work.
The discussion of the curfew centered on three issues: First, “what is the purpose?” Second, “what is the law that achieves that purpose?”; and third “Is such a law enforceable?”
Augustine said she is less concerned with “something punitive” and more interested in giving police officers “probable cause” to stop a group of kids out late at night and ask them what they’re up to. She said the proposal brought forward in May by
Capraro, Greco, and Cass discussed the powers police officers used to have to approach a group of kids and tell them to “move along” or “go home.” Capraro asked if there was already something on the books that still gives the police that power today. Cannon said that the laws they mentioned were ‘loitering laws’ that were ruled unconstitutional over a decade ago. A curfew ordinance, if written correctly, could give police back some of that power when dealing with youth at night, so long as there is “reasonable suspicion” that the youth are under age seventeen.
Then enforcement becomes the issue, Cannon remarked, indicating that many curfews require youth in violation to be taken to a centralized location or to the police station, “then you have the police becoming babysitters.” An alternative, he said, would be to issue appearance tickets, whereby youth would report to city court on a set location and would then have to demonstrate to the judge, by means of a government issued ID, that s/he is over the age of seventeen. Otherwise a fine or community service could be imposed. Councilor Valentino said that he supports the idea of a curfew as a way of helping parents raise their teenagers, but he wants to hear what the committee comes up with and “what facts they present to back up their conclusion.”
City Manager Rich Rising then offered a suggestion that council, if it decides to enact a curfew, do so temporarily so that staff can evaluate response and measure the resources needed to enforce it. Then, Rising said “we can come back in six months or a year and tell you if this will require more resources to be effective.”
Capraro then steered the discussion to an “immediate response” to gun violence and an update on the gun amnesty program he proposed earlier in the month. Councilors Greco and D’Amico spoke in support of the program and Cannon said that Council simply needs to authorize the Chief to administer the program in conjunction with the necessary community and law enforcement partners. Rising said that such authorization will be added to the September 5th agenda for Council action.
Councilor D’Amico listed other issues his committee would likely discuss. Those include: expanded youth activities, better use of athletic fields for public recreation, a civilian patrol, a public nuisance ordinance, and school safety issues.
Greco reported on concerns he’s heard regarding the start of school and asked D’Amico what was planned to ease those fears. Capraro said that a few years ago, before his sons graduated from
Capraro suggested inviting into the discussion Cornell University Professor James Garbarino, a nationally recognized expert in youth violence prevention, and author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. Rising indicated that Chief Pane is completing a report on various community safety issues including possible gang activity and it should be available by the end of the week. There was consensus to release the report to the press.
A recommendation was made by Augustine to issue a statement to the community about the ongoing efforts. She said we should praise the force for apprehending suspects in each of the two shootings and for committing to the increased patrols. But she said the message to the community should be that this is not simply a law enforcement issue. The community must work together on prevention systems.
Councilor Valentino agreed that recent unity events are important and should continue. Capraro said we should be urging people to come forward with information, and Councilor D’Amico agreed to add that to the committee’s list of discussion points. Councilors Schroeder and Greco agreed that a statement was needed and Mayor Cass said he would meet with the press the following morning to issue such a statement.
The Council then moved into executive session to discuss the sale of the