City, county, school board representatives discuss curfews

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 3:49 p.m. CDT; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

COLUMBIA — As they sipped coffee and orange juice Wednesday morning, Columbia City Council members, Boone County Commissioners and Columbia Board of Education members discussed ways to lower youth crime rates and give kids positive alternatives.

The meeting started a discussion Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said will continue when she, Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller and board president Michelle Gadbois meet next month. She said they will identify a few short-term goals and move toward tackling larger problems.

Many of those present at the breakfast said it was good to see the city, county and schools work together on youth crime issues. Nauser drew on conversations with law enforcement officers in Columbia and Miami, where youth crime has been lowered, to introduce possible solutions. The conversation focused on curfews but also touched on school uniforms and alternate activities. A city and county curfew was presented as a way to keep kids off the streets at nighttime. Columbia doesn't have a curfew, but Nauser said all the surrounding communities except Boonville and Mexico have curfews.

Northern District County Commissioner Skip Elkin said the curfew in Hallsville is effective, and vandalism has almost stopped. Hallsville applies to those younger than 17 and prohibits them from being out between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. through the week. Hours are extended until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Board member Jan Mees asked if research could be done to see if and how curfews work in other college towns because she said the makeup of Columbia, which includes college students, is different than surrounding communities. Some discussed whether a curfew would affect those younger than 16, 17 or 18.

A curfew could offer leverage for police officers, who right now might have no other reason to stop teens just for being out late at night.

Nauser said measures such as curfews might keep kids from entering the juvenile detention system.

"It's not just to have the hammer of the law down on these kids," she said.

Nauser also said she hopes children who have unsafe or undesirable home environments can get resources or help.

Board member Steve Calloway said disparities in the roles of city and school administrators have contributed to some of the problems.

"We don't need more police," he said. "We need police to take a different approach with kids, whether in schools or on the streets."

He also said it was important to give kids alternatives to being out late at night, and he said partnering with nonprofit and social service agencies could help. Board member Karla DeSpain raised the idea of keeping school buildings and media centers open after school hours to give kids places to go.

Nauser called the meeting "a very positive first step," and said she was pleased with the way the separate groups discussed common issues.

To read more about what city council and school board members had to say about the idea of school uniforms in Columbia, go to

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Charles Dudley Jr October 29, 2008 | 4:54 p.m.

Curfews are great IMHO just as the council lady pointed out but....Monday thru Friday they should be 10 pm to 6am and Saturday - Sunday 11 pm to 6am. Also it should be for all kids under the age of 16 yrs.

I am sure alot of citizens are glad to see this coming around.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 29, 2008 | 5:17 p.m.

...Nauser also said she hopes children who have unsafe or undesirable home environments can get resources or help...

I like your proposed curfew schedule, Charles, but I'd like to know what help and resources are available for the parent(s) who would feel unsafe with their undesireable kids at home?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 29, 2008 | 5:29 p.m.

ray shapiro good point and a great topic of discussion as you and I know from days gone by a child left to it's own devices will always find that one device that will out do the last device found.

The bigger question should be is what can this city as a whole begin to offer in their youth leadership programs that will out shine the oh so tempting shady side of life scenes that the kids lean towards today?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 20, 2009 | 8:20 p.m.

I suggest that a curfew for children 12 years and younger should be on the books, in a town such as ours, and reasonably enforced. A different approach should be used for minors who are older than 12.
It is important, for the safety of our neighbors, that we try to prevent crimes before they happen. I would recommend that we encourage 12-15 year olds to participate in less "juvenile delinquent" behaviors by having more "parental supervised" youth activities at the Armory, ARC and after school centers. More youth and family friendly activities need to be organized by Parks and Rec and by our churches. Parents need to encourage their youngsters to attend and the programs and activities need to be age and culturally appealing. MU and CPS could also partner to open up "drop-in" centers, aka a safe place to hang out. The school's need to develop meaningful Parent-Teacher-Youth Associations from K through High School.
Columbia Courts need to incorporate a Family Court mentality into their Juvenile Court system where parental responsibility and accountability is developed, nurtured and expected. Parents of juvenile delinquents should be required to go to parenting classes. Their children should also be required to attend. Many of them will be breeding, soon enough.
The Family Court structure in St. Louis looks real good, on paper. I would suggest that this town use it as a blueprint.
Our courts also need to stop treating 13-20 year old gang members with kid gloves. Many of the younger kids are being recruited into these gangs by older members.
Recruiting youths into a gang should be an enforceable crime vis a vis corruption of a minor.
Start punishing the gang recruiters and we might put another dent into their little organizations.
Responsible residents need to take action against Columbia's growing drug problems, gun problems, gang activities, juvenile delinquency and decaying family dynamics. Sometimes, all we can do is support someone like Councilwoman Nauser and improve on her heartfelt intentions.

(Report Comment)

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