Philadelphia expected to make 10 pm curfew for teenagers permanent
Supporters of the curfew say it’s aimed at keeping young people safe from historic rates of gunfire in the city
By Anna Orso and Ellie Rushing
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia appears poised to make a 10 p.m. curfew for people under age 18 permanent, and there’s some talk of again fining the parents of children who violate it.
The city enforced the 10 p.m. rule — which had previously been at midnight — through much of the summer, but legislation green-lighting the earlier curfew expired at the end of September.
Supporters of the curfew say it’s aimed at keeping young people safe from historic rates of gunfire in the city.
But experts who have studied curfews say they have little to no impact on crime or victimization rates. And while the curfew was in place this summer, more children were shot than during any other summer on record, according to police statistics.
Members of City Council’s Committee on Public Safety approved the extension of the curfew after an hour-long hearing Tuesday. The bill, championed by at-large Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson, could pass the full Council as early as next week. A spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney would not say if the mayor intends to sign the bill, saying only that he would “review the legislation if it is passed.”
Under the legislation, teenagers 14 to 17 must be home by 10 p.m., and children ages 13 and younger must be home by 9:30. There are a handful of exceptions, including for children and teenagers who have jobs or are attending school or religious activities.
Police who pick up children violating the curfew are to first take them home. If supervision is not available, police are to then take the child to a police district or to one of the city’s new community evening resource centers.
Two centers, which are run by community groups paid by the city, opened in January and provide programming for kids from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. The city, which set aside $2 million this year for the centers, is expected to open two more this month.
[NEXT: State your case: Do curfews help reduce crime?]
The city’s Department of Human Services oversees the programming. Gary D. Williams, a DHS deputy commissioner, testified that the centers have served more than 560 children since January, but the majority went voluntarily and were not brought in by police for violating the curfew.
A spokesperson for the Police Department said that of more than 900 curfew violators since June, at least 85% were taken home or picked up by a family member.
Still, Gilmore Richardson defended the evening resource centers, saying the city should aim to open one in each of the city’s six police divisions.
“I’m not going to apologize for seeking to do all that I can to help our young people,” she said. “Whether they go to the center voluntarily or involuntarily, the point is ... they are now in a safe space and have access to resources.”
Gilmore Richardson also floated reinstating penalties for parents whose children violate the curfew, though the version of the bill that passed the committee Tuesday does not include fines.
Until last year, children or their parents could be fined $250 for their first violation of the curfew, then $300 to $500 after that. Council removed the penalties last year amid concerns that they disproportionately affect people living in poverty.
Longtime gun-violence prevention advocate Bilal Qayyum testified Tuesday that while he knows they are controversial, he “strongly” favors penalties for parents whose children violate the city curfew.
“There should be a fine put on the parent if the child is picked up after the curfew hour by police,” he said. “If that parent is irresponsible, then we got to hold that parent responsible. I know that some folks don’t want to hear that.”
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents parts of West Philadelphia, expressed some skepticism. She said she’d prefer if the city committed to meeting the housing, workforce, or mental health needs of parents whose children repeatedly violate the curfew.
“We tend to jump toward penalties and penalizing people,” she said, “when it would probably cost us less to support people in the way that they need to be supported.”
Given the current makeup of Council, any controversial provision could face a tough vote. Legislation requires nine votes to pass, which is a majority of the 17 Council seats. But four seats are vacant after a wave of resignations by members who are running for mayor, and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson has been absent from sessions for the last two weeks as he stands trial on federal corruption charges.
It means that until seats are filled after a special election next month, legislation could be defeated by just four “no” votes.
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