My youngest daughter, the dancer, was between contracts with ballet companies and spent much of the summer in New York — staying with a friend in Brooklyn, but spending most of her time in Manhattan — working at a restaurant at night, taking ballet classes and working out at a gym in the daytime.
The place she was staying was at the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and disturbingly close to Bedford-Stuyvesant on the map. She was at a disadvantage in her neighborhood not speaking Spanish (I coached her with a few phrases, but there’s only so much you can teach in brief phone conversations). She rode the subway at all hours, often alone, because of her schedule.
Of course we worried. She’s 21, and therefore technically an adult. But not to me.
This past weekend was her first full weekend back in town. She went to a party for a friend in Olympia Saturday night. After that, she went to meet one of her best friends, who works late in Five Points.
It was the first time in the last few months she felt unsafe. The young kids milling about in Five Points, some apparently in gang colors, caused her to feel something she hadn’t felt in New York — or in Charlotte living there all last year.
I had heard from Five Points business people about the growing problem of teenagers who are too young to get into the bars loitering in the streets in large numbers. I had heard, recently, that THAT was the context of the shootings that have happened in the vicinity in recent months.
This made me start to think that — while I still think closing bars at 2 a.m. is a good idea — that wasn’t the solution to the violence. A curfew for kids under 18 sounds like a better solution.
This will probably set off some of my libertarian friends here on the blog, but I don’t care. This makes sense. And kids have no business on the street late at night.
To quote from the story in The State today:
Most anyone younger than 18 would be under an 11 p.m. curfew in the city of Columbia, and adults strolling a sidewalk with an open can of beer could land in jail for a month if two proposals before City Council on Wednesday become law.
Both changes in city ordinances are being driven by a summer of youth violence in Five Points, in which two men were shot in three incidents. The violence, reportedly springing from youth gang turf wars, has cut deeply into the revenue of merchants in the busy business district, which is popular with USC students, said Scott Linaberry, president of the Five Points Association.
I urge Columbia City Council to pass this curfew tomorrow.
I also urge them to keep moving toward merging city police and Sheriff Leon Lott’s department as soon as possible. Leon was working to address the gang problem long before any other local cops would even acknowledge there was a problem.
Well, there IS a problem. And it’s gotten pretty bad. And a curfew is one common-sense tool to use in addressing some of the problems that gangs bring.
As for the open-container proposal — I don’t know what I think about that yet. I’m not as clear on exactly how that plays into the problem that we’re trying to address here. Perhaps some of you are more familiar with that than I. But the curfew seems an obvious, reasonable step to take.