Toledo Police Caught Off-Guard When Voters Pass Curfew For Teen- agers
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ Police officials say they were caught off-guard Election Day when voters approved a curfew for teen-agers. Now they have to figure out how to enforce the people’s mandate.
″I didn’t expect it to pass and, quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared for it to pass,″ said Deputy Chief James Wiegand, head of police field operations.
The curfew takes effect Dec. 4. Police Chief Marti Felker said he would meet with city leaders to discuss how to make it work.
Crystal Ellis, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said he has been asked to set up a program to inform the district’s 41,000 students and their parents about the curfew.
The referendum was passed by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent in response to growing concerns about crime in this blue-collar city of 330,000. In the past two months, seven young people have been killed in drive-by shootings or robberies, and most suspects have been teen-agers.
The law bars children 11 years old and under from city streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. For children 11 to 15, the curfew applies from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew for 16- and 17-year-olds will be midnight to 5 a.m.
Exceptions will be made for minors returning home from a school activity, a job or entertainment, such as a movie.
Violators will receive a warning for their first offense, and their parents will be called. On a second offense, the youngster and their parents could be charged with a minor misdemeanor and fined $100.
A curfew violator with a previous conviction could be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which carries a 30-day sentence and $250 fine.
Supporters say the curfew will curb crime. But opponents have argued it can’t be enforced because there aren’t enough police and curfews in other places haven’t worked.
Some civil rights leaders say the curfew will make innocent black youngsters the target of harassment and add to racial tensions. Blacks comprise 20 percent of the city’s population and live mostly in the poorer and more dangerous inner city.
The petition drive began a year ago, after the City Council twice rejected curfew proposals from two council members.
But Councilman Carty Finkbeiner said police shouldn’t have been surprised the curfew was approved, since 30,000 people signed petitions to put the referendum on the ballot.
Michael Collins, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, said the law will be hard to enforce because the department is short-staffed, with 640 officers - 135 less than the authorized strength of 775.
But, the union chief said, ″The curfew is a decision made by the voters, and we’ll handle it.″
Wiegand said police could have problems getting accurate information from teens about their age and keeping track of who has been warned.
″Until we have some experience with it, we’re not going to know how it’s going to work,″ he said.
Tina Avery, a 17-year-old high school senior, said she doesn’t think it’s fair that all teen-agers are being punished for a few who break the law and cause trouble.
″We’re definitely being picked on, and that’s not right,″ she said. ″Kids that cause trouble are going to cause trouble anyway, curfew or not. A lot of innocent kids are going to be harassed.″