As discussion opened third district councilman Jermaine Reed expressed concern that all 34 tickets issued last year were to African-American kids.
That prompted a surprise appearance from Mayor Sly James who admonished the group to stick to the issue and not drift off into race relations. James agreed that the problem has some racial factors, but insisted that they are not the heart of the problem and that the city cannot allow the public to have the impression that it is not safe to go to some of its entertainment districts.
Councilman John Sharp says there is also another concern among some council members and the police department: “We don't want to take officers away from enforcing our laws to prevent deadly criminal activity or those that are so harmful to our city to really babysit teens while you're waiting for their parents to pick them up.”
Sharp said the police have approached him to emphasize that though they do not categorically oppose changing the curfew, they do not at this time endorse the change.
Sharp also emphasized that the city already has a year-round curfew for persons under 18 that applies to the Plaza and 4 other entertainment districts. It simply begins a couple of hours earlier in the summer months. He believes there are serious shortcomings to restricting the activities of young people and punishing those who behave well along with those who do not.
The city has had some success with community-center-focused recreational programs for youth in the past year. On some nights there were overflow crowds, and the city plans to spend more on those activities. But, Sharp says, the expanded plans are focused on the summer, not the full year.
The curfew matter was tabled for three weeks for more study and discussion.