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Curfew Law May Get Tougher, But Many Say It’s Not Enforced

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Curfew for minors has been pushed back in Chicago. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Do you know where your kids are? Chicago’s curfew law says anyone under 17 cannot be outside or in a public place after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, the City Council votes whether or not to make curfew rules tougher. The proposal would move up the curfew time to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday for kids under the age of 13.

But some people wonder, why bother? As CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, many residents complain that police don’t enforce what’s on the books already.

By day, Mason Park on Chicago’s West Side is pleasant, but local resident Joan Lowe said that, after dark, it’s a different story.

“I see drug selling, drug usage … sex, partying. Everything that shouldn’t be going on,” Lowe said, adding that some of the kids are as young as 14, out after curfew.

Her daughter, Trounia Lowe, said she knows, “if you stay outside past curfew – just like my momma said – people can get hurt, shot or, even worse, people can die.”

This week, a 13-year-old boy was hurt was shot by Chicago police officers when – at around 11 p.m. Monday – he allegedly pointed a BB gun at them after they approached him about an earlier shooting in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called it a tragedy and said he didn’t want to point fingers, but said “When we’ve got 13-year-old kids on street late at night. that’s a recipe for disaster.

To him, the curfew is a big deal, but Police Department statistics show officer-written curfew violations are down.

They went from 23,275 in 2009 – when the city moved up the curfew time by half an hour – to 19,555 last year. Halfway into 2011, there have been 8,398 curfew violations.

In the Harrison District, where Lowe lives, there have been 279 curfew violations written up in six months, but Lowe said she knows there are more kids than that out after curfew.

“They’re getting people, but … I think they can get more,” she said. “The police will ride by and see the kids in the playlot and won’t do anything. … I have a big problem with that.”

Her daughter said she has a lot of friends who stay out after curfew, but police don’t do anything about it.

“We’re going to take a real hard look at ourselves and do something about it,” said Police Deputy Supt. Of Patrol Ernest Brown.

“I have to get tougher on my commanders to make sure that they’re doing curfews,” McCarthy said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the news conference that he grew up with a curfew. When the street lights came on—he says—you got your tail home and inside. Thus, the mayor supports the measure setting an earlier curfew for younger children.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

“It doesn’t mean just because you have it, kids are going to be safe, but it means that we’re aligning good parenting with the laws of the city … to make sure kids are going to be safe,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

The mayor also mentioned the need for good parenting; the police can’t do this alone.

But one mom said folks won’t take curfew seriously until police officers crack down.

Brown said city residents will see more curfew violations.

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