A controversial new curfew intended to keep teens off the street after 11 p.m. was signed into law this week by Mayor Michael Nutter.
“By adopting this legislation, we are updating and enforcing a law that was already on the books,” said Nutter, noting that the city has had a curfew since 1950.
Expanding the law was necessary, he said, to combat the ongoing problem of flash mobs, which popped up several times this summer in Center City and several other neighborhoods.
“During this past summer, our city was faced with a small percentage of our city’s youth impacting all of our citizens. This law will help our law enforcement to respond more effectively and quickly to apprehend the offenders,” he said.
The law, which was passed 16-1 by City Council last month, over vocal public objection, creates three different curfews according to age. Those 13 and under have to be off the street by 8 p.m. during the school year and 9 p.m. during the summer months. Kids ages 14 and 15 have a 9 p.m. curfew throughout the school year and 10 p.m. during the summer. Those 16 and 17 have to be inside by 10 p.m. through the school year and 11 p.m. in the summer.
Parents of violators can be fined up to $500.
According to the mayor’s office, curfew violators will be taken to the closest police station and held until their parents or guardians can be contacted. Parents will receive a notice or citation when they collect their child from the station. If a parent or guardian cannot be reached, police will contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) to initiate an investigation.
The law does provide a few exemptions.
Working teens or children acting on their parents’ orders or with their parents are excluded.
Nutter pushed for the new curfew hours after several flash mobs this summer. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who introduced the bill on the mayor’s behalf, praised him for quickly signing the bill into law.
This measure gives law enforcement officials an important tool that they have requested to deter youth violence,” she said. “Provided that it is used fairly and compassionately, it can be an important piece of the puzzle to building a safer city.”
Critics of the bill compared it to Jim Crow and apartheid.
“Let’s call it like it is. It’s a step back to Jim Crow,” said Adan Diaz, when he opposed the bill last month in City Council.
He then had harsh words for Council.
“You are a shame to yourself, your city, and yes, your race if you pass this,” he said to a round of applause.