It’s summer time in Detroit. The River Days festival is underway. The annual Detroit Ford Fireworks takes place tonight, and for minors, a strict city-mandated eight p-m curfew will be enforced. But, not everyone supports the idea of a curfew
The City of Detroit has often put a curfew in place to make sure minors are under the watchful eye of a responsible adult during one of the most crowded nights of the year downtown.
The youth curfew runs from eight pm into the early morning hours. That’s a time when Detroit Police Assistant Deputy Chief Renee Hall says violent crime is at its peak in the city.
“Look at our city in the last couple of months. We have had teenagers down to two-year-olds who’ve been gunned down. So it’s important that we do what we can as a law enforcement agency to ensure that our kids are safe,” Hall says.
The Detroit City Council approved a one day ordinance earlier this month that requires all minors to be with a legal guardian or responsible adult between 8:00 pm June 27th.and 6:00 am the following day.
She says the overall goal is protect the young people in the city, not restrict them.
But the American Civil Liberties Union says the curfew does exactly that; restricts the rights of young Detroiters.
The ACLU has opposed the emergency curfews in the past and called for an end to the ordinance.
Legal Director Michael Steinberg says the rule criminalizes innocent conduct and is an infringement on civil liberties.
“It made simple acts of being outside a crime. And that’s not the right message to give to children,” Steinberg says. ”It’s bad public policy. We do want police to regulate bad behavior. But what’s the message you’re sending when you’re giving someone a criminal record just for being outside?”
Steinberg says it’s ironic for the city to force children to stay in their homes on a day celebrating the nation’s freedom. And he says curfew decisions should be left to parents.
Assistant Deputy Chief Renee Hall says the curfew is a tool that lets Detroit police work alongside parents to keep children safe.
Some parents agree with Hall.
Leslie Lott has been a resident of Detroit for more than 10 years. The mother of two young children says the emergency curfew could be a useful, if it’s not abused.
“Parents should be responsible for their children. I think that around the city during the fireworks you have to be with a parent if you’re under 18 I think. And that seems to me to be reasonable enough. They don’t need to be policing everyone and making sure that their home by seven o’clock. Like teenagers should be able to enjoy the fireworks too,” Lott says.
Roxanne Nathan says she would be uncomfortable letting her children go outside alone after dark.
“Why would you need to be out later than that without a parent? What could you possibly be doing?” Nathan says.
And even 16 year old Tayauna Holloway says she thinks curfews for minors are generally a good thing.
“I know the curfews are set for our safety so the parents don’t have to worry,” Holloway says. ”Curfews they are a good thing.”
But, Holloway does say maybe the curfew could be pushed back until nightfall. Holloway may not get her wish, but some city council members and other groups are working to eliminate curfews all together and having the community supervise young people instead of the police.
Until then kids and teens will just have to grab their popcorn and their parents to enjoy the show downtown.