Toledo Voters to Decide on Curfew for Kids
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ When Stan Granger looks out his window some nights, he sees teen-agers hanging out on the street drinking beer, dealing drugs and otherwise causing trouble.
Some people in his north-side neighborhood have been robbed and beaten; others have been hurt getting caught in the middle of drive-by shootings.
″We tell the police what’s going on, but they only come out to pick up the bodies,″ said Granger, a 64-year-old retired factory worker.
Granger was among 30,000 people who signed petitions to put a curfew for teen-agers on the Nov. 3 ballot.
″Most of the gang stuff involves teen-agers. They’re the ones causing trouble,″ Granger said in a recent interview. ″With a curfew, police can tell them to go home, get off the street. Maybe we can have some peace.″
Many American cities have curfews for teen-agers. But Toledo may be the first to let voters decide, said Laura Waxman, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors. It’s usually city councils or mayors who enact curfew ordinances.
The measure, if passed, would ban children 11 and under from the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. For youngsters 11 to 15, the curfew would be 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew for 16- and 17-year-olds would run from midnight to 5 a.m.
The curfew would not apply to youngsters returning home from a school activity, entertainment such as a movie, or a job.
Two City Council members proposed curfew legislation twice last year, but the council rejected it both times. The council said there aren’t enough police to enforce a curfew. Toledo’s police union opposes it for the same reason.
The blue-collar city of 330,000 has about 630 police officers. It is authorized for 775 but cannot afford that many and is not replacing those who retire or otherwise leave the force.
Patrick Murphy, director of the Conference of Mayors’ police policy board, said officers already have their hands full with emergencies. ″I’ve yet to meet a police chief who tells me curfews work very well,″ said the former New York City police chief.
Councilman Peter Silverman called a curfew ″a false hope.″
″If police are pulled off a beat to arrest kids who break a curfew, then they’re not available to respond to serious crimes like rape, arson, robbery and assault,″ he said.
The City Council’s rejection of a curfew prompted supporters to launch a petition drive to put the issue to the voters.
Carty Finkbeiner, one of the council members who proposed a curfew law, said curfew is a way to curb crime in the inner city. In the last month, five youths have been killed in drive-by shootings or robberies, and teen-agers were among the people arrested for those crimes.
″We just can’t sit around and do nothing,″ Finkbeiner said.
Many in this city agree.
″I think a curfew would make a difference,″ said Sandra Jones, a 32-year- old mother of three who signed the petition. She lives in a public housing project. ″The kids are outside late at night with their loud music, fighting and drinking. I don’t know where their parents are.″
But a civil rights leader, the Rev. Floyd Rose, said a curfew could heighten racial tensions.
″The curfew is going to be selectively enforced, which means that black children will be the primary targets,″ he said. ″It’s interesting that when we cannot deal with the root cause of this, we either lock these kids in or we lock them up. We never deal with the primary cause of their problems.″