Philly officials consider earlier citywide curfew

PHILADELPHIA - August 23, 2011

Right now, the city is enforcing a 9 p.m. curfew for the downtown and University City neighborhoods in response to the attacks. Everett Gillison, deputy mayor of public safety, told a panel of state legislators that officials are looking into whether an earlier citywide curfew is needed.

"We didn't want to kind of penalize the whole city," Gillison said of the decision to make the earlier curfew, which has been extended through early next month, apply only to those two neighborhoods where the majority of problems have been. Mayor Michael Nutter has directed Gillison to analyze whether the approach should be citywide.

Under the regular school-year curfew, youth ages 13 to 17 are subject to a 10:30 p.m. curfew on weekdays and a midnight curfew on weekends; children up through age 12 have a curfew of 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.

The 9 p.m. summertime curfew was put in place earlier this month downtown and in the University City neighborhood - home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University - and officials report few problems since then. The special curfew applies to all children under age 18, with a handful of exceptions, such as youths traveling to jobs.

Last weekend, there were 32 youths picked up for curfew violations, according to police.

In one mob attack last month, a man ended up in the hospital with broken teeth and a wired jaw after a group of teenagers attacked him downtown. Hours later, a crowd of young people assaulted four men. An 11-year-old boy was among the four young people arrested in the case.

In its efforts to prevent violent teen mobs, the city has stationed more police officers downtown, extended the hours of some youth centers and embarked on a campaign to get business leaders to register their security cameras with the police department. But some opponents, including those at a protest last weekend, have called the new curfew illegal and racist, saying economic development was what was needed to solve the problem.

At Tuesday's hearing at St. Joseph's University, sponsored by state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, D-Philadelphia, officials with the Pennsylvania NAACP's education committee told state legislators that officials must realize many of the youths involved suffer from a lack of education and have witnessed violence in their communities.

Joan Duvall-Flynn, chairwoman of the NAACP committee, testified that intervention geared toward preventing violent teen mobs must account for the fact that many of the kids involved have witnessed violence. She advocated for more violence-prevention programs in schools.

"We need to teach," Duvall-Flynn said. "And we need to teach with love and compassion."

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