Chicago police will enforce new curfew ordinance

By The Associated Press
03.21.04

CHICAGO — Mayor Richard M. Daley announced on March 18 that the police department would begin enforcing the city's revised curfew ordinance over the weekend.

The city suspended enforcement of the law in February, following a federal appeals court ruling that struck down an Indiana curfew law, saying it violated juveniles' First Amendment rights.

Chicago's new ordinance requires police officers to question children under age 17 about why they are on the street after 10:30 p.m. on a school day or 11:30 p.m. on a weekend, unless accompanied by an adult. Under the revised law, if the minors aren't returning from a political rally, church, job or errand for a parent, they can be cited for a curfew violation. The changes were made to acknowledge activities protected by the First Amendment.

On Jan. 22, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against an Indiana curfew law, saying it interfered both with minors' First Amendments rights and with parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit.

"Our curfew is a vitally important part of our commitment to protect our young people from guns, gangs and drugs," Daley said. "It saves lives by keeping kids out of harm's way. A young person on the street at night becomes an inviting target for gang recruiters and for gang bullets."

Police Superintendent Philip Cline said police would use common sense on whether to believe a minor's explanation for being out. He said he expected officers to enforce the law professionally and objectively.

Cline said Chicago police write approximately 40,000 curfew violations each year, and that 819 juveniles are victims of violent crime during curfew hours. "That number is high, but would likely have been far higher were it not for strict curfew enforcement," he said.