Kids on the streets

By Gilbert Garcia

It's been 18 years since SA last addressed the issue of youth curfews, and by most accounts (including those of Police Chief William McManus and City Manager Sheryl Sculley) the city's existing ordinance has not worked particularly well.

One reason cited by Sculley: Officers have been reluctant to pick up apparent violators, because those officers will subsequently be stuck with the children for long, indefinite stretches, rather than doing "the work they're trained to do" â?? patrolling the streets.

City Staff recommended that the Council tweak its existing ordinance by moving the evening curfew time from 10:30 to midnight, allowing kids to bend curfew rules if their parents send them on emergency errands, and stipulating that children whose parents can't be located will be sent to SAPD's Youth Services Office. The final provision frees patrolling officers from having to be de-facto babysitters whenever they pick up a curfew violator.

Things got thorny, however, when outgoing District 2 Council member Sheila McNeil and District 10's John Clamp (who have formed a consistent, if unlikely, political alliance on Council over the last year) fretted at the thought that 10-year-old children would be allowed to be out until midnight. Diane Cibrian expressed similar concerns, and after some talk of a convoluted two-tier curfew plan (one for 10-13 year olds, another for 14-16 year-olds), she suggested a compromise: an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. youth curfew that would be applied across the board. The Concil unanimously passed the compromise ordinance.

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