Cur­fews are no subs­ti­tu­te for good pa­ren­ting

It’s a was­te of ti­me cha­sing chil­dren and hau­ling them ho­me – way­ward kids need bet­ter outlets and pa­rents who can con­trol them

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

Do you know whe­re your chil­dren are? Or ha­ve you de­ci­ded that res­pon­si­bi­lity be­longs to your com­mu­nity’s po­li­ce?

It’s not un­com­mon for Al­ber­ta com­mu­ni­ties to at­tempt to ma­na­ge ma­rau­ding tee­na­gers by in­tro­du­cing a cur­few.

Bru­der­heim has do­ne just that this sum­mer. The cur­few, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., ap­plies to chil­dren 15 years old and youn­ger. Teens can’t be in pu­blic pla­ces un­less they are wor­king or on their way ho­me from or­ga­ni­zed events that are su­per­vi­sed by adults.

If RCMP find Bru­der­heim kids wan­de­ring the streets af­ter 11 p.m., they are re­tur­ned ho­me and their pa­rents are is­sued a tic­ket. The first of­fen­ce costs the pa­rents

$100; sub­se­quent of­fen­ces cost $200 each.

Bru­der­heim adop­ted this stra­tegy be­cau­se lo­cal young peo­ple con­ti­nually cau­se trou­ble la­te at night. “It’s just so­met­hing that helps make re­si­dents feel sa­fer and en­su­res the sa­fety of the chil­dren,” Ma­yor Karl

Hauch told Glo­bal News.

But we know pro­tec­ting chil­dren is not nearly the so­le mo­ti­va­tion. Every ti­me a cur­few is de­ba­ted or in­tro­du­ced in Al­ber­ta

– think Ta­ber, Mi­llet, Black­falds, Red Deer or se­ve­ral ot­her Al­ber­ta com­mu­ni­ties in re­cent years – it isn’t just about pro­tec­ting chil­dren.

It’s about pro­tec­ting pro­perty and put­ting a lid on costly po­li­ce res­pon­se to re­ports of that sto­len and da­ma­ged pro­perty.

The de­ba­te about the need for cur­fews – or the po­li­ti­cal and po­li­cing will to en­for­ce exis­ting cur­fews – is really a dis­cus­sion about qua­lity pa­ren­ting, pro­grams for youth and pro­gres­si­ve, pre­ven­ti­ve po­li­cing stra­te­gies.

Less than a de­ca­de ago, Red Deer coun­cil re-exa­mi­ned the city’s ra­rely en­for­ced cur­few. A pro­po­sal to ex­pand the cur­few win­dow for youth un­der 16 was ul­ti­ma­tely re­jec­ted. The­re was little ap­pe­ti­te to strengt­hen a by­law that was al­ready dif­fi­cult to en­for­ce – and didn’t get to the root of the pro­blem.

Ins­tead, coun­cil as­ked lo­cal groups to exa­mi­ne the ori­gins of youth-re­la­ted pro­blems and co­me back with so­lu­tions.

The mes­sa­ge was sim­ple: it’s a was­te of ti­me and mo­ney to cha­se chil­dren and haul them ho­me. And that stra­tegy doesn’t ad­dress the co­re is­sues: that way­ward kids need bet­ter outlets, and pa­rents can’t or won’t con­trol their chil­dren.

Cur­fews ge­ne­rally land on the agen­das of town and city coun­cils be­cau­se mem­bers of the com­mu­nity feel th­rea­te­ned, are con­cer­ned about pro­tec­ting their pro­perty, or are wo­rried about youth ac­ti­vity ha­ving an im­pact on their pro­perty va­lues.

Tho­se are the kinds of con­cerns that should be hee­ded: vio­len­ce, pro­perty cri­me and a fee­ling of di­mi­nis­hed sa­fety will rip­ple th­rough a com­mu­nity.

But ex­pan­ding or re­gu­larly en­for­cing a cur­few is not the way to ad­dress sa­fety con­cerns. By all means, com­mu­ni­ties can ha­ve cur­fews in pla­ce – it’s al­ways good to ha­ve a stra­tegy of last resort.

But the ul­ti­ma­te th­rust of any com­mu­nity’s di­rec­tion – to get young peo­ple on the right path – should make a dis­cus­sion about cur­fews all but moot.

The best po­li­cing tends to use cur­fews mo­re to gui­de young peo­ple than to pu­nish them. Alt­hough it is cer­tainly a use­ful tool avai­la­ble to po­li­ce – it allows them to ask for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, en­ga­ge young peo­ple in con­ver­sa­tion and even ta­ke them ho­me – it should ra­rely be used to is­sue tic­kets.

Is­suing tic­kets and res­tric­ting ba­sic rights and free­doms should be far from the heart of this dis­cus­sion. And the­re is no evi­den­ce that cur­fews ac­tually work.

A study in Mary­land’s Prin­ce Geor­ge County found that the­re was little or no im­pact on youth cri­me com­plaints or arrests as a re­sult of im­po­sing a cur­few. A si­mi­lar study by Ca­li­for­nia’s Cen­tre on Ju­ve­ni­le and Cri­mi­nal Jus­ti­ce ca­me to much the sa­me con­clu­sion. Even in com­mu­ni­ties whe­re a week­day day­ti­me cur­few is in ef­fect, and whe­re po­li­ce can ac­tually hold cur­few-brea­kers, the­re is no sign that youth cri­me has di­mi­nis­hed.

So the bet­ter path is a co­lla­bo­ra­ti­ve ef­fort bet­ween lo­cal cri­me pre­ven­tion groups, the mu­ni­ci­pa­lity and va­rious youth agen­cies, or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­nity re­sour­ce groups.

So­me com­mu­ni­ties in­clu­de a pa­ren­tal res­pon­si­bi­lity or­di­nan­ce in their com­mu­nity stan­dards by­law.

Ot­her com­mu­ni­ties ha­ve in­tro­du­ced beha­viou­ral health pro­grams for fa­mi­lies of chil­dren at risk. The pro­grams in­clu­de li­fe-skills coaching, edu­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment help, and pa­ren­ting as­sis­tan­ce.

In Rim­bey a few years ago, coun­cil cho­se not to im­ple­ment a cur­few, ins­tead fo­cu­sing on es­ta­blis­hing fa­ci­li­ties and pro­grams for lo­cal youth.

That sort of ac­tion is about choo­sing the cons­truc­ti­ve path rat­her than the pu­ni­ti­ve one.

And, ho­pe­fully, it in­clu­des pa­rents kno­wing whe­re their chil­dren are. -TROYMEDIA

Troy Me­dia co­lum­nist John Ste­wart is a born and bred Al­ber­tan who doesn’t drill for oil, ranch or dri­ve a pic­kup truck – alt­hough all of tho­se things ha­ve pla­yed a ro­le in his past. John is al­so in­clu­ded in Troy Me­dia’s Un­li­mi­ted Ac­cess subs­crip­tion plan.

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