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Greensboro City Council Approves Youth Curfew

6:08 PM, Jul 3, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Greensboro city council approved an 11 pm curfew for community members less than 18-years-old during an emergency meeting Wednesday morning. 

Council members voted in favor of the curfew in an 8-1 vote; Councilwoman Small was the only "nay" vote.

The curfew will last for a 60-day trial period.

Map: Curfew Enforcement Boundaries

The meeting was a result of fights among as many as 500 people in downtown Greensboro last weekend, according to Mayor Robbie Perkins. Police arrested 11 people ranging from 16- to 20-years-old who were involved in the incident.

Perkins said at the beginning of the meeting, "This is a meeting that I don't think anyone on this council wanted to call, but [it's] necessary for public safety."

Shortly after, Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller pointed out that a curfew was brought up in 2010 as a response to club violence. "Statistically, downtown is much safer than in years past, but incidents like last weekend's can erase safety gains." 

This year, the city introduced a new initiative, Summer Night Lights, to engage teens and keep them out of trouble. In a June interview, the city's Coordinator of Youth Initiatives, Michelle Gill-Moffat, told WFMY News 2, "So, if they're going to be [downtown], we want to give them something to do that's constructive that keeps them away from the bars downtown and kind of contained."

During the Wednesday morning meeting, Miller said teens haven't been interested in activities the city has provided to keep them occupied. While referencing last weekend's fights downtown, he added that police are always prepared with additional officers downtown, but staffing was insufficient last weekend.

Several community members spoke about the curfew with mixed feelings about the city's debate. Both the City Manager and Police Chief Miller disagreed with speakers who suggested the incident happened as a result of Summer Night Lights.

Join The Conversation: #GSOCurfew

Councilwoman Small said she heard from community members who felt the last curfew was race-inspired to keep young African-American men from downtown. She added, "We cannot legislate parenting [...] We need to figure out a way to get the input from the kids and their parents on this."

Small cautioned council members about their decision because she said they need to figure out the root of the problem and not create something worse.

Councilwoman Abuzuaiter said she was downtown when the incident happened. She said she saw people's frightened faces and that youth told her to do something to make downtown a safe place for them. Abuzuaiter pushed for a city-wide curfew, not just one for downtown.

Councilwoman Vaughn, who joined the meeting by phone, supported Abuzuaiter and made a motion to change the curfew to cover the entire city. However, the amendment failed after a 6-3 vote.

The city attorney said implementing a curfew deals with constitutional issues including: Right to Assemble, Free Speech, Freedom of Travel and more.

Miller said the curfew is a tool, not a "sledgehammer." He told people at the meeting that staff never carded anyone during the last curfew period. He added that the new curfew would primarily focus on young people who are being disruptive and that they wouldn't card everyone who looks like a teen.

Late Wednesday afternoon, city leaders also met with several among the faith community. The group disussed other ways to address the city's issue with teenagers. Some of the suggestions included engaging teens in more activities, offering summer jobs and getting parents more involved.

Youth pastors have set up a community two community meeting next week. The first is scheduled for Monday at 10:30am at Bethel A.M.E Church.

Another meeting will be held at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church at 12pm on Wednesday.

 

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