Real News From Hartford's Curfew: Arrests — And Tips
September 13, 2008
The real "news" about Hartford's revived youth curfew is not that only 119 kids under 18 — about four teens a night — were nabbed within the last 30 days.
No, the headline here is that police have actually made ARRESTS after another high-profile crime cast the city — and the competence of the police — in a bad light.
And hear this: The cops attribute their success in recent days to neighborhood folks speaking up.
The blow back from the Aug. 9 shootings, which killed one young man and injured six juveniles after an orderly and peaceful West Indian Day Parade, is that the "snitches-get-stitches" mentality is easing up.
Maybe this starts a trend: Fed up with street violence, residents turn to police, rather than inward and keeping quiet.
"I believe it's important that in all cases, the community works with the police for the better good of the community at large," said Keith Tinker, 65, now in his 50th year living in the city. For the last 38 years, Tinker has run an insurance company on Albany Avenue. "I believe it is less than 3 percent of the total community that is creating the problem. I think if we look at the community, we'd see that the kids born illegitimately or accidentally are not looked after in as careful a way as they should be. They grow up a little wilder."
Several months ago, a street cop told me that it's a small band of thugs creating most of the crimes in the hot-button neighborhoods. As I've said before, if you trace those kids back to their home, you'll likely find an overwhelmed or overworked single mom and no positive male role models.
As part of this curfew, Police Chief Daryl Roberts said the cops have also better targeted the whereabouts of young hoods identified as violent. The HPD and Mayor Eddie Perez have a multipronged problem. They want to ensure that young people from unstable homes have something productive to do at night. They have to track the rampant number of guns on the streets. And the guns, of course, are usually linked to drug dealing.
Wayward kids. Guns. Drugs. They're symptoms of dysfunctional homes. That's why I was ambivalent about the city reactivating its 31-year-old curfew.
Sending kids back to homes that were compelling them to hit the streets after 9 p.m. didn't make sense. The curfew was an act of desperation by public officials who were losing control of the city. The post-parade shooting did not occur at night."The bulk of our shootings are between 9 p.m. and 4 in the morning," Roberts said. "The thing at the parade was actually an aberration."
There are about 23,000 students in the Hartford school district. Finding 119 youngsters out late at night is actually not a big deal. Until you remember that those are 119 lives that could possibly need intervention.
Perez and Roberts speculated that the public attention given the curfew served as a deterrent and gave parents or guardians some leverage in advising their kids to stay home.
During the curfew, which is being extended, police say none of the teens caught had weapons. Last year, the HPD confiscated 401 guns through their arrests; 306 is the year-to-date tally.
The gun problem can be resolved too. In order to do that, people must speak up. The crime-stopper hot line is 860-722-TIPS.
As Tinker puts it, "We've got to flush out those that are causing the problem."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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