Chicago aldermen on Thursday carved out an earlier curfew for kids under 12 -- 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends -- despite warnings the crackdown would overburden police and "penalize our children for enjoying the summer months."
Former Police Committee Chairman Anthony Beale warned that a kid riding his bike before sunset in front of his house could be slapped with a citation that saddles parents with community service or a $500 fine for the first two offenses, and $1,500 for three or more violations over 12 months.
"Are we penalizing our children for enjoying the summer months?" Beale said.
"Are kids gonna be able to play in front of their house in front of where they live? If they are a couple houses down from their house, are they gonna be picked up for [violating] curfew for riding their bike on their particular block?"
With daily shootings terrorizing South and West Side neighborhoods, Beale also warned that a police department suffering from a severe manpower shortage has better things to do than round up curfew violators.
West Side Ald. Emma Mitts said she understands Beale’s concerns. But she argued that it’s high time the City Council crack the whip on indifferent parents and protect young children who are out on the streets unsupervised.
"There are no parents. None whatsoever who are watching them. And they’re riding these little bicycles and these little scooters at all times of the night," Mitts said.
"We need to protect the children, basically. That’s our job. … With the concern that we have all of these shootings taking place -- if we can just save one life," it’ll be worth it.
Ald. Danny Solis agreed with Beale that, after a two-year police hiring slowdown, “We don’t have the manpower to really enforce this across the board.”
But, he said, “We live in a different era. Many of these shootings involve young children. Having this type of law to be able to be implemented in a specific time at a specific place when needed is a good idea.”
Two years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley turned back the curfew clock by 30 minutes — to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends for Chicago’s 730,000 kids under the age of 17. The curfew is currently the same for younger kids.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that aldermen Michelle Harris, Toni Foulkes and Lona Lane want Chicago kids under 12 to be in the house by 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.
That’s even though the sun sets after 8:30 p.m. for several weeks during the summer, luring kids outside.
The following day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy embraced the proposal.
Their formidable support — echoed by community policing chief Ron Holt -- set the stage for Thursday’s endorsement by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee and a full council vote next week.
Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel Jeff Levine stressed that parents or guardians could escape liability if the minor is on the sidewalk in front of their own or a neighbor’s house.
He also noted that citations would not be written until police officers ask questions about the minor’s age and reason for being out on the street.
Last year, Chicago Police officers issued 19,500 curfew violations, most of them to kids between the ages of 13 and 16.