Chief Links Need for Curfew to 'Irresponsible' Parents

By Robert Samuels
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 4, 2006

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that the city had to set the new 10 p.m. curfew for youths 16 and younger because of "irresponsible" parents who don't control their children.

"You shouldn't need a curfew if you've got parents who are responsible," Ramsey said on Washington Post Radio. "But unfortunately we've got some parents here that are totally irresponsible. Their idea of raising a kid is throwing a kid out of the house and letting them straggle back in at 2 o' clock in the morning.

"The reason they're upset about the curfew is because now they got to actually do something with them from 10 o'clock on."

Youth advocates and some residents have criticized the 10 p.m. curfew, which Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) proposed after Ramsey declared a "crime emergency." The city has had a curfew since 1999, with midnight as the curfew hour in July and August. The new time took effect Monday and will continue until at least Aug. 30.

Since Monday, D.C. police have picked up 139 youths for curfew violations. Officers take the youths to curfew centers, where their parents or guardians are asked to pick them up.

Speaking on WTWP's "Ask the Chief" program, Ramsey pointed out that the curfew law provides exemptions, such as for youths who are with parents or guardians, who are working or who are attending official school, religious or recreational activities. He said police are targeting youths who are out without supervision anywhere in the city.

Children should not be on the street without supervision past 10 p.m., he said. They could be spending that time on the front porch or with their families, he said.

"They have no business out there on the street that late," he said. "All they're going to do is get hurt or wind up getting in trouble."

Told of Ramsey's remarks, Eshauna Smith, executive director of the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates, said he has the wrong attitude. At first, the curfew suggested that children were to blame for the District's crime problem, she said. Now, she said, he seems to be spreading the blame to parents-- also in a misguided way.

"Parents are working long hours and long shifts, and what we would want to see is community support for assistance," Smith said.

She said communities show support by having places for young people to go late at night. Those places are even more important in the summer, when they have lots of time with little to do, she said.

During the radio program, Ramsey said the city needs to address deeper issues to have a lasting impact on crime and disorder. "I realize full well that crime emergencies and what we're doing now are putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, kids ought to be in school year-round. . . . Then you don't have to worry about standing outside till midnight because you've got to go to school the next day," Ramsey said.

Ronald Moten, who heads Peaceoholics, a nonprofit group that assists troubled youths, said in an interview yesterday that the city must deal with the larger issues.

"I don't believe in year-round schools. I believe in year-round enrichment," said Moten, the father of a teenager. "We should have programs, trips and things for them to do during the summer so it can be cool not to be a fool."

Staff writer Allison Klein contributed to this report.

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