Curfew forums well attended, but still no clear path

About 150 residents attended the first three community forums on the proposed curfew, but despite varied input, the City Council president concluded the matter is far from settled.

“We have a long road ahead,” Council President Jake Day said.

“We didn’t get any new insight from the meetings, necessarily. I believe the only way to address this is to address it through other means. If a curfew is a piece of that, then fine, but I’m not convinced it is,” Day said.

Mayor Jim Ireton, who favors a curfew, said those who attended meetings “overwhelmingly said we need it.”

“I continue to support the curfew because the stealing and property damage done by young people who should be home or should know better has to stop. I am well aware of the issues that some families face and am willing to put resources and time into a Curfew Plus solution,” the mayor said.

Those at meetings “have, at almost every turn, said that services that are in place that may not be getting to our most at-risk kids, need to. Dr. Mark Thompson has been integral to the discussion of a service center that helps kids and parents get access to what they need,” he said.

But Day said the concentration should be on “creating an opportunity for young people to be engaged in positive activities like sports and after school groups.”

“The way to engage neighborhoods has to be different. We have to  change the relationship with the community with increasing presence and community engagement,” Day said.

The relationship between residents and police has to change, too, he said.

“We have to get back to a deep approach of policing. We need officers  to build relationships. We need to continue to be harder on those who are making life difficult for others,” he said.

While he isn’t opposed to a curfew, Day said establishing one without other measures wouldn’t be  far-reaching enough.

Some speakers at the forums told city leaders if they implement a curfew, the city will fall apart and others said without a curfew it will be ruined, Day said.

“A lot of people from the west side are in favor, but a lot of others are opposed. Young people are very much opposed. They have a real problem with it,” Day said.

Forums were Aug. 19 at St. Francis de Sales Parish Center, Aug. 20 at St. Paul’s AME Zion Church and Aug. 26 at the Chipman Cultural Center. The fourth was scheduled for Tuesday night at Cathedral of Love on Church Street.

About 70 people attended the Chipman event, with about 40 each at the other two, according to Christine Chestnutt, Safe Streets coordinator. She said audiences were composed of “a good mix from all sides.

Each meeting was scheduled to last 90 minutes, but continued for at least two hours, she said.

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