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US: Curfew considered for Utica

UTICA - Common Council members are discussing whether to establish a youth curfew for residents younger than 17 in an effort to curb street violence.

It's an idea that's been talked about several times in recent years but has never come to fruition. With the city of Rochester beginning a 90-day pilot program next week, though, Councilman James Zecca, D-2, will be watching to see how it works and how Utica might follow its model.

"This is for the children's safety and the public's safety," Zecca said. "We are definitely having problems. This gang issue is starting to grow in certain areas of Utica."

Mayor Tim Julian, though, questioned whether a curfew would tax police resources. And some teenagers are skeptical about its effectiveness.

Donovan Middle School eighth-grader Anthony Williams, 13, said kids often have little to do and hang out in the street as a result. A curfew would be hard to enforce, he said.

"It's all right during the school days, but in the summer sometimes I'm out until 11:30 (p.m.)," he said, adding that he's usually traveling home from a friend's house if he's out that late.

Youth curfews have been controversial in other cities in which they've been enacted. It remains a preliminary idea at this point in Utica, and no legislation has been introduced.

A National League of Cities 2005 survey released in January questioned 436 cities and found 67 percent had enacted youth curfews. Overall, 56 percent of city officials found youth curfews somewhat effective in limiting gang violence, according to the survey.

The National Youth Rights Association, based in Rockville, Md., argues that youth curfew laws do little to reduce crime.

"If someone's going to go out and steal a car or mug someone, if they have that intention they're not going to care about a curfew law anyway," said Alex Koroknay Palicz, executive director of the association. "I think resources are better spent fighting actual crime instead of harassing kids out on the street doing nothing wrong."

But Zecca disagreed.

"If we have a program like this it's going to reduce the problems on the streets at night because you're getting the people off the streets," Zecca said.

He pointed to a July 2005 study conducted by Social Science Associates and Utica Safe Schools/Health Students Partnership Inc. that described an emerging gang problem in the city. The study found problems not just in poorer neighborhoods such as Cornhill, but also in North and South Utica.

Julian said he wasn't in favor of a youth curfew at this point and said it would require extensive study. Police resources and constitutional rights are among the issues that must be considered, he said.

"There are so many questions because you're dealing with such a large area, and do we want our police being tied up taking kids down to the station or do we want them out tackling crime?" Julian said.

Utica resident Andrew Weather, 19, was skeptical of how many young people would obey the curfew and said there are better ways to spend money.

"Why not exert more energy on trying to give these kids programs?" Weather said. The intentions of city officials might be good, but parents should be responsible for keeping children off streets at night, he added.

"My mother would never let me go out past 11 (p.m.) when I was 16, but that's just my mother," Weather said.

Posted by: SoulRiser
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Posted in: News by NewsBot on September 6, 2006 @ 12:00 AM

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