Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Two separate homicides on the East Side of Youngstown late Monday and early Tuesday reinforce the reality that violent crime remains a pungent and persistent stain on the city.
The killings also reinforce the need for the city Police Department and others to never let down their guard and use every available tool at their disposal to preserve the public peace.
In recent years, that toolbox has expanded to include a larger contingent of officers, beefed-up community policing and close interaction with the nonprofit Community Initiative to Reduce Violence. Collectively the teamwork has succeeded in reducing crime rates. Homicides, for example, are down markedly this year.
One of those tools rolled out last Friday night for the first time for the long hot summer of 2018 is a crackdown on juveniles on the streets during curfew hours that run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
According to YPD Capt. Kevin Mercer, officers on routine patrols will stop any individuals on the streets who look younger than 18 and issue them a citation before escorting them home. Deadbeat parents also can receive citations and fines for not properly supervising their kids.
We’re confident that continued and vigilant enforcement of the curfew will help make children and their parents more responsible – and more safe.
OPPOSITION TO CURFEWS
Some individuals and institutions, however strongly disagree. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, has been fighting youth curfews for years – with varying degrees of success.
“You don’t lose your right to freedom and liberty under the Constitution simply because you are under 18,” said Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey. He added, “Juvenile curfews are essentially lockdowns for persons under 18 for numerous hours of the day.”
Such nanny-state hyperbole, however, flies in the face of longstanding legal precedents that allow freedom of assembly to be limited if it is done to protect the health, welfare and safety of a community .
On a more practical plain, what possible good can come from children alone and left to their own devices on the streets during prime time for crime?
Impressionable young people, many lacking strong parental oversight, easily can be lured into the wrong crowds, foolishly partake in criminal deeds, mindlessly succumb to illicit drug activity or carelessly fall prey to poor role models.
The curfew stands as their first line of defense, up to and including keeping them out of the paths of stray bullets and other potentially lethal perils.
Curfews also protect law-abiding residents from potential harm from teen marauders disturbing the peace and inflicting personal or property damage in neighborhoods.
Surely the growth of curfew laws across the United States and more rigid enforcement of them testify to their effectiveness as a viable took in law enforcement’s growing arsenal. According to the National League of Cities, more than 500 cities in the U.S. have adopted curfews as crime-fighting and public-safety measures.
Most locally and nationwide agree they bring positive results. In San Antonio, for example, the League of Cities reports that victimization of young people dropped 84 percent since it enacted a curfew several years ago.
CURFEWS ARE BUT ONE TOOL
For all of their value, however, curfews alone are no panacea to preventing aberrant youthful behavior or parental irresponsibility.
That’s why we’re pleased that the curfew sweeps in Youngstown come with a partnership among city police officers, the Mahoning County Juvenile Court and the CIRV program.
Even though Youngstown cops can identify and track down the problem – individuals who break the law by defying the curfew – they have neither the manpower nor the resources to provide solutions. That’s where counseling and other services by the court and CIRV come in most handy.
CIRV, a partnership of law-enforcement, social-service agencies and the faith community, has succeeded particularly well in turning young people away from lives of crime and in lessening the scope of violent crime in the city.
Such teamwork among the police and the community will remain critical to achieving the long-term goal of curfew sweeps and all crime-fighting initiatives: making the city of Youngstown a safe and welcoming place for all to live, work and visit.