After lying low most of the summer, discussions on alternatives to the curfew ordinance are beginning to heat up again.
On Thursday, Bill Whitcomb of the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service will discuss ways the community can curb problems with youth out late at night, said Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia branch of the NAACP.
At the group’s last meeting July 22, Ratliff and NAACP members talked with First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton and community leaders about how to solve youth problems without a curfew.
“We wanted to look at alternative ways to help our youth with activities that would be educational and recreational,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff said no plans were made on how to tackle the problem, and she and other community leaders will ask young people and parents to weigh in on the topic before going ahead with anything.
“Part of the problem is that we have not had (young people) involved and telling us what kinds of things would be meaningful to them,” she said.
They will also look at solutions in other communities, such as Kansas City, where Whitcomb has been involved. Kansas City has late-night programs during the summer to provide after-hours activities for young people.
Crayton pushed for a curfew ordinance in Columbia that would make it illegal for those under 17 to be in public places past 11 p.m. on weekdays and 11:59 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. After she faced opposition in June from the NAACP and other community members, Crayton withdrew the ordinance from the Columbia City Council.
Late-night juvenile crime has continued as steadily as always, West District Commander Capt. Marvin McCrary said. He said some of the summer’s most serious juvenile crime, such as bus vandalism and a shooting of a 15-year-old by 15-year-olds, occurred after proposed curfew hours.
“The curfew would’ve been of some use and may have even stopped some of it,” he said.
Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said the department would still support a curfew ordinance if it were to come up again in council discussion.
Boehm said he wasn’t aware of any specific plans for curfew alternatives, but said he would be glad to look at a proposal. Late-night recreational activities would be beneficial, he said, but they would probably not keep juveniles from being out at about 2 a.m.