COLUMBIA — A curfew for juveniles would have to protect their constitutional rights and be combined with other strategies for combating crime among young people if it's going to be effective, City Manager Mike Matthes said in a report to the Columbia City Council.
Police Chief Ken Burton advocated a curfew for people younger than 17 during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon held in response to the June 15 downtown shooting that injured three people. Some council members believe a curfew is a partial solution to the problem of youth crime while others believe it's unnecessary.
Matthes' report, called "Tools and Strategies for Addressing Youth and Gang Violence," cites academic research exploring the impact of various solutions to youth crime and offers a rundown of previous conversations on the topic in Columbia. It also summarizes strategies the city already has in place and reprises a bill establishing a curfew that was proposed but failed in 2003.
"Gang violence, juvenile crime and the relationship between the two are unfortunately not new issues for Columbia, and the city has responded with various programs and strategies," Matthes said.
One of Matthes's main points is that curfews must be implemented with other strategies if the city expects them to work. He called for working with parents to ensure teenagers don't become repeat offenders. Rather than referring them to court, he said, violators should be taken to "a facility staffed with volunteers, neighborhood leaders, or even social and psychological professionals." Community service, he said, would be preferable to prosecution in court.
The report also discusses the following strategies and summarizes existing city efforts to address them:
- Graffiti removal and abatement
- After-school and evening programs
- Employment programs
- Early childhood intervention
The report also includes the text of the 2003 bill, which called for a curfew for those younger than 17 between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and between midnight and 5:30 a.m. on weekends. A 2003 report from the Police Department supporting the curfew also is attached.
The possibility of a curfew has surfaced several times over the years in Columbia. Here's a roundup of some of the Missourian's past coverage of those discussions.
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- A curfew and other alternatives were discussed to curb problems with youth out late at night (Aug 4, 2003).
- Members of the NAACP and some citizens discussed alternatives to a curfew. Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia branch of the NAACP, said most of parents she spoke with for a survey were opposed to a curfew (Sept. 18, 2003).
- Government officials and community leaders agreed that a curfew would not solve juvenile crime and violate children's rights (May 25, 2005).
- Columbia Mall instituted a curfew requiring youths under 17 to be with an adult after 4 p.m. on weekends (April 19, 2007).
- Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser and Police Chief Ken Burton considered establishing a daytime curfew (April 29, 2009).
- While Columbia officials and residents divided over a curfew on teens, which was raised by Mayor Darwin Hindman and Councilwoman Laura Nauser, several communities including Ashland, Hallsville and Centralia saw the benefits of curfews (June 18, 2009).
- Imposing a curfew on teenagers faced opposition from residents including groups represented by the Columbia Black Roundtable, which pressed for alternatives to a curfew (March 4, 2010).
- City leaders brought up whether to impose a curfew Wednesday in response to a June 15 shooting downtown. Video of the incident that shows teenagers "walking toward trouble" led city leaders to consider a curfew (June 26, 2013).