So having police keep teens off the street after hours abridges their rights? What's a two parent working family to do? No answer has covered that question at this point. But city officials are frantically looking for a way to keep these near-adults lurking in the shadows, rather than flaunting their freedom.
An “action plan” is in the works.
The decision recently by Superior Court Judge Rene Gonzalez was a victory for parents and students who sued the city for violating their rights by imposing the curfew in 1996. The curfew, which requires youths age 17 and younger to shun the open air between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays during the school months and from 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during the summer months, carries a fine of up to $300. About 5,000 minors have been cited, though it seems unlikely that a fine that steep would do more than get shoved into the pocket of a pair of jeans, unless the parents can afford to pay it.
The issuing of a kid-fine that high alone seems unconstitutional.
Apparently, the curfew law had a good side: It gave police and community patrollers permission to remind kids to go home. It also kept vandalism and crime down in Fairview and Midtown.
It seems amazing that the community assumes that teens out between the hours of the curfew law simply needed a reminder to “go home.” Much like the story of the Wizard of Oz, isn't it? Dorothy had the power all along. She simply had to click her heels together three times. Similarly, these kids, once told to move along, did not cause any more trouble in the community.
But do we care if they really went home? What is home like? Or do we just care that we don't have to look at them or put up with their petty crime? It may surprise some that domestic violence is sky-high in Anchorage, keeping courts and local attorneys hopping. All of a sudden, home does not seem like such a good place to send kids to try to sleep. It is more like a place to learn poor communication skills that kids carry into their own intimate relationships. Still, it does solve the problem for us, sending them home, for now.
California, Florida and Oregon are a few states that had the same problem of teens “hanging out” on the streets late at night, getting into trouble. These states and others have helped to solve their problem with programs that involve sports like basketball.
The Midnight Basketball League, a national, nonprofit, community based intervention program, helps thousands of young adults by offering them an alternative to cruising the streets during the late night, high crime hours. All participants must attend educational, counseling and mentoring workshops before each supervised basketball game.
Keeping community centers open all night for teens for whom home is not a welcoming place also works. Local police and community volunteers would need to get involved, however, and it's not as easy as issuing 5,000 tickets and hoping the problem will go away.
Wake up, Anchorage. The place many children consider “home” in this city does not always have a fluffy pillow and two supportive, concerned parents waiting for them.