Daily Archives: August 14, 2008

Want to reduce crime? In by nine!

Hartford’s struggling. There’s no doubt about it. No matter what the police and city government try to do, it seems as though every week there’s more violence. Now, after last weekend’s shootings in which one was killed and 7 were injured – mostly children – the city has decided to try a new tactic: a curfew.

Under the rules of the curfew, which goes into effect today, anyone under 18 who is caught loitering on a city street without a parent, guardian or approved adult will be given a written warning and taken home. Repeat offenders will “go to court”.

Already the curfew has produced mix reactions: the ACLU saying it is not legal, a Hartford Courant editorial arguing it will be ineffective, Stan Simpson (whose columns I like) reminding us that this is a much deeper problem than vagrant youth, one victim’s mother telling people to buck the anti-snitching culture, Hartford prosecutors considering the use of a grand jury and a group of activists planning on going door to door asking the criminal element to leave Hartford.

There are arguments both for and against such a curfew. The ACLU recently successfully challenged a similar curfew in the northern town of Vernon and claims that curfews don’t work. However there are some reports that it may help reduce crime:

City of West Palm Beach Florida just observed the one year anniversary of a 10 PM curfew for those under 17 years of age. They say its enforcement has been very successful.

Police there say arrests of juveniles are down 36 percent and nighttime arrests dropped 86 percent. They also say the total number of crimes during curfew hours are down 12 percent.

Further, it doesn’t really solve the root of the problem, which I’ve talked about quite a few times. Hartford is an economic crap-hole and there are a lot of absentee parents. Add to that the anti-snitching culture and you’ve got a mob running wild.

Something has got to be done, but most of the solutions are long-term and the problems are so entrenched in the city that it would years, if not decades to right the ship.

In the meantime, the residents of the city need to feel safe. If a curfew is a band-aid to be placed over a gaping wound, then at least it’s something. Taking loitering kids home after 9pm would force their parents to start getting involved.

It’s worth a trial. Which is what this curfew is, since it lasts only 30 days.