"I know many people may not appreciate our curfew--especially the gang bangers, the drug dealers and the thugs who use our children as shields for their illegal operations. But, I believe it's time for us to extend it," said Mayor Daley in a press release. "My reason is simple. If we can take even one child out of harm's way by taking this step, it will be worth it. When children are off the streets, they're safer from violence."
After listening to Robert Hargesheimer, commander of police youth investigations, testify at the committee hearing, Ald. Ike Carothers [D-29th], chairman of the police and fire committee, said that a tightening of the law was merited.
"The fact is, the later you go, the more crime there is," said Carothers. "The earlier we can get them off the street, the less chance they have of becoming a victim or a perpetrator."
Carothers also said that the curfew law has been effective in changing behavior patterns. He cited a decline in citations issued for curfew violations from approximately 29,000 in 2006 to approximately 26,000 in 2007. He also said the city had issued 1000 citations to parents within the last year.
Nevertheless, according to police spokeswoman Monique Bond, 33 children under the age of 16 fell victim to violence during curfew hours.
"If kids are home studying or simply staying off the streets then we're going to reduce the number who will potentially be victims," said Bond. "If you remove them from the streets and enforce the curfew then there's no doubt that we potentially can save lives."
The full City Council will vote on the curfew changes at its Feb. 6 meeting.