If it’s 11 p.m. on a weekday and you live in the city of Atlanta, you’d better know where your children are.
In an effort to keep kids safe over the long, hot summer, Mayor Kasim Reed and other city officials announced Tuesday that they plan to enforce the city’s long ignored curfew law.
The curfew law requires children 16 or younger to be at home and supervised by a parent, legal guardian or authorized adult from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
But the big change from previous enforcement threats came in the form of punishment threats — for parents. The first violation will result in a warning, city officials announced. A second violation may result in parents getting fined up to $1,000 and spending up to 60 days in jail or conducting community service.
“I want everyone in the city of Atlanta, especially our young people, to enjoy the summer months,” Reed said, with the city’s parks commissioner, police chief and MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott at his side. “At the same time, it is vital that we keep everyone safe. Our parks, pools and recreation centers are safe havens for kids where drugs and gang activity will not be tolerated.”
Along with curfew enforcement, the officials were unveiling a variety of measures as part of the city’s “Summer Safety Initiatives,” including:
- Patrols of all city parks by uniformed officers 24 hours a day;
- Visits by officers with parks and recreation managers at city park facilities;
• Checks of city pools by uniformed officers on patrol;
• Property crime details targeting problem areas;
• Distribution of literature for the city’s “See Something, Say Something” program, which encouraged city and county employees to report suspicious activity; and
• Referrals of youth to mentoring programs such as the Police Athletic League, Centers of Hope, Boys & Girls Club, etc.
But curfew enforcement raised the most questions. The city officials promised “curfew patrols at parks, movie theaters, skating rinks, apartment complexes and other places where youth gather; and curfew patrols in partnership with MARTA Police.”
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported today that then-Mayor Shirley Franklin announced promise of enforcement in 2009 -- except not with the threat to punish parents. And constitutional rights attorney Gerry Weber told the AJC that could leave the city open to federal court challenges.
“The imposition of criminal sanctions on the parents when the wrongdoing is done by the child, that kind of derivative liability has been frowned on by the courts,” he told the paper. “That is a challenge that the city is going to have to face if they try to enforce this.”