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Perez Renews Youth Curfew In City

By MARK SPENCER | Courant Staff Writer

September 12, 2008

The youth curfew imposed Aug. 14 was the "right thing at the right time" to stem the growing tide of violence on city streets, Mayor Eddie A. Perez said Thursday as he renewed it for another 30 days.

"I strongly believe the curfew has worked," Perez said.

The curfew was touted as a way to keep Hartford's youths out of harm's way while the city implemented tougher enforcement tactics and encouraged increased parental accountability.

Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts cited dramatic drops in gun violence from Aug. 2 to Aug. 30, including a 54.2 percent decrease in the number of people shot in the city. He said that only one teenager was involved in a shooting during the curfew.

But the raw numbers paint a more ambiguous picture.

In the roughly three weeks before the curfew, there were six shootings and 16 shooting victims, according to Hartford police statistics. Those numbers include seven people who were shot one fatally when gunmen fired into a crowd Aug. 9 after the West Indian Day parade, the incident that, in part, prompted the curfew.

During the first three weeks of the curfew, there were eight shootings and nine victims. The total number of incidents reported to police, including rapes, assaults and auto theft, increased from 465 in the three weeks before the curfew to 479 during the same period.

Roberts said 119 youths were issued written warnings for violating the curfew and taken home by police. Four repeat violators were given citations.

The curfew required anyone 18 and younger to be off the streets between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The curfew is not a panacea for Hartford's crime problems, Roberts said, but was effective, combined with increased adult supervision of young people, community participation, cooperation with state police and tougher enforcement. He noted that on Thursday police arrested a third suspect in the West Indian Day parade shootings.

Opponents of the curfew said studies have repeatedly shown that the tactic is ineffective in reducing violence.

"This curfew gives the public a false sense of security," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. "It doesn't address the crime problems the residents of Hartford are suffering from."

Jon L. Schoenhorn, the lawyer who successfully sued to have Vernon's youth curfew struck down by the courts in 2003, said imposing the curfew in 30-day increments could be a tactic by the city to try to avoid potentially expensive legal challenges.

"A municipality knowingly engages in unconstitutional activity at its own risk," he said.

Perez said the curfew ordinance has been on the books for decades and could "pass muster" if the city was sued.

During the next 30 days the city will continue to gather data on the curfew to analyze its effectiveness while continuing to develop programs to provide young people with positive alternatives.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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