Area aldermen support plan to make 17-year-olds subject to curfew laws, as current ordinance applies only to those 16 & under; city also starts searching visitors to Millennium Park for weapons, as city deals with fatal Downtown shootings
by BRIAN NADIG
Many Northwest Side aldermen are supporting a proposal that would make 17-year-olds subject to curfew, as the current law only applies to those age 16 and under, and alonwould change weekend curfew from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“I am a reluctant ‘yes’ (on the changes) because all this curfew does is bind up our cops. We need an actual solution with teeth and punishment,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) said after the vote. Napolitano has voiced support for issuing fines to parents for the criminal actions of their children.
Napolitano said that a curfew violation basically means a free ride home for the offender and that violent offenders are not worried about breaking curfew.
A police officer told Nadig Newspapers that enforcing curfew is difficult due to a lack of police personnel and the numerous exemptions in the law. On the Far Northwest Side, the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District reportedly is down 50 officers from about 4 years ago, forcing administrative officers to be assigned to beat cars, which sources say often have only one officer instead of two riding in them.
City officials have said that unaccompanied minors leaving a ticketed event, such as a concert, will not be subject to curfew as long as they have their ticket. Additionally the curfew ordinance permits unaccompanied minors to be out after 10 p.m. if they are coming home from work or a school or religious event, running an errand for their parents or exercising their First Amendment rights.
“This is a tool to help us with the flash mobs,” Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said of the changes. He added that while it is not known if the changes will be effective, something has to be done “to protect us from the terrorism and havoc some of these kids are wreaking.”
Sposato said that is not clear if a large group of minors can claim that they are all with the same adult, preventing the breakup of the crowd.
Sposato said that the intent of the changes is not for the police to arrest minors who are walking home at 10:15 p.m. from a baseball game and who are not causing any problems. Curfew would be 10 p.m. seven days a week for those 17 and younger if the council approves the changes.
A 2012 police department memo instructs officers not to arrest minors for curfew until they have asked the individuals for their age and reason for being out and determined whether or not they qualify for one of the exemptions. Curfew violators can be subject to a fine.
The City Council Public Safety Committee at its May 20 meeting voted 14-3 in favor of the changes. Those voting “yes” included aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th), Sposato, Samantha Nugent (39th), Napolitano and James Gardiner (45th). The council is expected to vote next week on the committee’s recommendation.
The city also has installed checkpoints at Millennium Park, following a recent fatal shooting near the park. Patrons are being searched for weapons and may have to show identification as part of the city’s efforts to keep unaccompanied minors out of the park on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
On Friday evening, May 20, a guard at a checkpoint at the park reportedly shot a man who ran from security and displayed a gun. There reportedly was an exchange of gunfire. The suspect was later arrested.
Also in Downtown Chicago, a shooting that left two dead and several wounded occurred Thursday night, May 19, near a McDonald’s in the Gold Coast area. There were reports that large patches of blood stains were visible on an area sidewalk more than 12 hours after the shooting.