OK, Michelle Williams knows she probably should have planned better. But
Tuesday morning, she found herself walking to the corner store on Garden
Street at 2 a.m. after her nephew went through more diapers than she thought
"What would I have done if they weren't open?" she said. "I
don't have a car."
If councilman Kenneth Kennedy had his way, the store would have been closed
at 10 p.m. He's sponsoring a proposal to impose a curfew on neighborhood
It's a bad idea.Once again, folks are attempting to reinvent the wheel
rather than working with what they have - a pretty useful, if underutilized,
And once again, it's the folks in whose name the proposal was crafted who
will be on the losing end of it.
Just about every neighborhood store I visited in the North End these last
couple of days has one of the red and white No Loitering signs. The 24-hour
place on Albany Avenue has two, one outside, another prominently placed
No Loitering, the signs read. Police Take Notice.
I wondered how much notice police take, so I asked the store owners. More
than a few said not much, so they don't bother calling any more. Others
said they stopped calling because when cops came, they walked right past
the loiterers and into the store to ask the owners if they had called the
"They leave and we're stuck here with people who aren't happy we called," said
Noel Ferreiras, who runs U-Stop on Barbour Street.
Hartford police spokeswoman Nancy Mulroy said police made 483 loitering
arrests in 2004. This year, they've made 264.
That's too low when you consider that sometimes there were close to a dozen
people hanging outside some of the stores I visited.
Hartford Community Court Judge Jorge A. Simon said there's been a spike
in city loitering and trespassing cases in his court this summer. Most folks
get a day or two of community service for the violation. But repeat offenders
are dealt with more harshly, like the guy Simon placed into custody Wednesday
morning after he ignored his repeated warnings to stay away from a building.
See, that's what I'm talking about.
Closing neighborhood stores early won't do anything but inconvenience the
folks whose lives have already been inconvenienced, to say the least, by
the violence that has taken hold of the North End.
Why not inconvenience the bad guys for a change?
Believe me, it makes an impression. It certainly seemed to be making one
Wednesday when Hartford cops and their new state crime-fighting partners
issued motor vehicle citations.
On Garden Street, where two officers ticketed abandoned cars, guys who
were already annoyed at having too many blue uniforms around said the cops
were harassing residents. But Kathy Melendez disagreed. The young mother
was careful not to express her pleasure too loudly, but she thought the
cops were doing exactly what needed to be done.
"They should make it hard for them to do whatever they want around
here," she said of the young men who have claimed her street.Proponents
of the curfew are quick to say these stores are magnets for trouble
- and they're right in many cases. There is no need for all-night smoke
shops. But many of the stores are at least outwardly legit, run by generations
of families just trying to make a living, employing neighborhood
residents who would otherwise be unemployed.
They also insist law-abiding residents have no use for these stores after
10 p.m., but the neighborhood folks I talked to said that's just not the
case. They're convenient for those who work second and third shifts, and
for those who don't have transportation to get to the all-night supermarkets
outside the neighborhoods.
"Why punish everyone for the actions of a few," said
As enthusiastic as Judge Simon is about enforcing quality-of-life
ordinances, he reminded me that you can't just throw everyone in jail for
He's right, you can't. But you also can't continue to punish law-abiding
folks in an effort to protect them either.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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