Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to make teenagers get inside before curfew until they turn 18 has some aldermen concerned about setting good kids up for failure, but they may not have as much to fear as they think.
Although the mayor talks of getting tough on curfew enforcement, the number of curfew citations issued by Chicago Police has actually plummeted under his watch.
In 2011, Emanuel’s first half-year in office, police wrote 21,500 curfew citations. That was followed by a steady dropto 18,527 in 2012;14,233 in 2013; and just 8,855 through Sept. 5 of this year, police records show.
Police Department spokesman Martin Maloney tried to put the best possible face on the decline, which coincides with a steady drop in the number of arrests in recent years.
“As crime continues to decline, we would expect enforcement to decline as well. After all, the magic number in terms of enforcement should be [zero]. Declining citations is a success in our eyes as long as crime continues trending that way as well,” Maloney wrotein an email to the Chicago Sun-Times that ignored the uptick in shootings.
Maloney noted that enforcement “isn’t the only way” police deal with curfew violators.
He pointed to a pilot program with Hartgrove Hospital in four police districts —the 10th, 11th, 15th and 25th — that offers an “alternative approach” to loitering and curfew violations.
Under the plan, the hospital receives curfew reports and calls families that have received citations for a child violating curfew three times in a one-year period. If they can’t make phone contact, a letter goes out to the parent or guardian.
“They meet with curfew violators and their families, offering resources, referring them to community agencies and providing educational information about the consequences of their behavior,” Maloney wrote.“Throughout the course of the year, 204 [citations] were issued in this effort and the families have the choice of accepting the counseling or paying a fine.”
Earlier this week, Emanuel proposed his second change in three years to Chicago’s curfew law.
After rolling back the curfew clock for kids under12, he now wants older teens under 18 to be off the streets by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. Currently, curfew applies only to kids under 17.
Emanuel said his motives were two-fold: to match a recent change in the state definition of juveniles processed by the criminal justice system and, more importantly, to keep as many young people as possible safe.
“Too frequently, all of us shake our heads because we hear these stories about an 11-year-old out at hours when they need to be indoors,” the mayor said.
“The goal isn’t what is popular. The goal is what keeps our kids safe. . . . They should be indoors. At later hours, they should not be out on the street.”
The mayor’s decision to broaden the curfew umbrella did not sit well with some Chicago aldermen —even those from crime-ridden wards.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the city Council’s Black Caucus, argued that high school seniors who can drive and vote and be “treated and arrested and convicted like an adult should at least have some of the benefits.”
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose 18-year-old son just went off to college, said older teens should be treated “like young adults” and be given “a little more leeway,” particularly when their grades are good.
“I just want to make sure that we don’t put young people in a position where they will fail — where they will do something that they normally do and then, get in trouble for it,” Burnett said.
Those fears appear to be somewhat unfounded, judging from the precipitous drop in curfew citations.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus, was the only one who appeared to be aware of that.
“We don’t have the police manpower to check on everbody’s age. But, if the circumstance requires it, that’s something else the police could use,” Solis said.