Officials In Phila. Plan Curfews To Curb Teen Violence

Aug 10, 2011
Originally published on August 11, 2011 9:40 am

Days of rioting in England are capturing international attention. In the United States, cities are also dealing with mob attacks, though on a smaller and less destructive scale. Earlier this week, Philadelphia officials announced their plan to fight mob violence, which has escalated in recent months.

Outside Philadelphia City Hall earlier this week, a small group of teens sat on the ground.

"We're out here reading books in silence. We're basically being the anti-violence flash mob," said 18-year-old Maria Clark. "We're showing people that we do do things positive. Not everybody's violent."

She says the flash mobs are a cry for attention.

Clark was with a dozen other young people near where Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter laid out his mob fighting plan. The city's strategy includes tightening teen curfews in parts of the city at 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nutter says he's also ready to punish mob participants — and their parents.

"They are your children. You need to raise them, and you are responsible for them," he says. "When you come to pick up your son or daughter who has broken the curfew, you will be issued, on the first occasion, a warning."

After a warning, the city will begin issuing fines up to $500. Nutter says he's tired of the roving, reckless bands of teens who are looking to cause trouble.

"I don't care what your economic status is in life, you do not have a right to beat somebody's ass on the street. None," he says.

Philadelphia police have increased patrols. Commissioner Charles Ramsey says he's talked with other law enforcement superintendents around the country for ideas too.

It's not just a Philadelphia problem. Cities from Mobile, Ala., to Chicago, Ill., are turning to teen curfews in hopes they will keep young people under control.

Ramsey says the rioting in London is not connected to what's happening in Philadelphia. Still, he says the attacks are frightening.

"These are people that just happen to be walking down the street at the time, and then they're attacked. It's the randomness of it, I think, that adds to the anxiety that people feel about what's going on," Ramsey says.

Nutter has ramped up his rhetoric. Speaking at his church last weekend, Nutter — who is black — told black youth who participated in the mobs they've damaged their own race.

For Emily Guendelsberger, the mob violence changed everything. The 27-year-old's suffered a broken leg in a mob attack. Several of her friends were kicked in the head by the mass of young people.

Guendelsberger says since the attack, things are different for her.

"I am afraid of young, black men now. It's very annoying because there are a lot of young, black men in Philadelphia. I honestly just wish I could go back to how I was before," she says.

Leaders from the African-American community stood beside the mayor when he announced the city's plan. The commissioner says community support will be key to stopping the violence.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Days of riots in England have overshadowed the news of a number of smaller mob attacks in the United States.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In Milwaukee, state police were dispatched to the Wisconsin State Fair after a series of violent fights broke out among teens.

INSKEEP: In Philadelphia, teenagers were at the center of two violent attacks last month involving robbery and beatings.

MONTAGNE: Yesterday, three students there turned themselves in for one of the attacks. They were eighth and ninth graders.

INSKEEP: Philadelphia's mayor is responding to this news with a series of anti-mob measures. Here's Elizabeth Fiedler of member station WHYY.

ELIZABETH FIEDLER: Outside Philadelphia City Hall earlier this week, a small group of teens sat on the ground.

Ms. MARIA CLARK: We're out here reading books in silence. We're basically being the anti-violence flash mob.

FIEDLER: That's 18-year-old Maria Clark.

Ms. CLARK: We're showing people that we do do things positive. Not everybody's violent. Like, as far as the flash mobs, it's a cry for attention. That's all they want.

FIEDLER: Clark was with a dozen other young people near where Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter laid out his mob fighting plan. The city's strategy includes tightening teen curfews in parts of the city to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Nutter says he's also ready to punish mob participants and their parents.

Mayor MICHAEL NUTTER (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): They are your children. You need to raise them, and you are responsible for them. When you come to pick up your son or daughter who has broken the curfew, you will be issued, on the first occasion, a warning.

FIEDLER: And after a warning, the city will begin issuing fines up to $500. Nutter says he's tired of the roving, reckless bands of teens who are looking to cause trouble.

Mayor NUTTER: You know, I don't care what your economic status is in life, you do not have a right to beat somebody's (beep) on the street. None.

FIEDLER: Philadelphia police have increased patrols. Commissioner Charles Ramsey says he's talked with other law enforcement superintendents around the country for ideas, too.

And it's not just a Philadelphia problem. Cities from Mobile, Alabama to Chicago are turning to teen curfews in hopes they will keep young people under control. Ramsey says the rioting in London is not connected to what's happening in Philadelphia. Still, he says the attacks are frightening.

Mr. CHARLES RAMSEY (Philadelphia Police Commissioner): These are people that just happen to be walking down the street at the time, and then they're attacked. It's the randomness of it, I think, that adds to the anxiety that people feel about what's going on.

FIEDLER: Mayor Nutter has ramped up his rhetoric. Speaking at his church last weekend, Nutter - who is black - told black youth who participated in the mobs they've damaged their own race.

For Emily Guendelsberger, the mob violence changed everything. The 27-year-old suffered a broken leg in a mob attack. Several of her friends were kicked in the head by a mass of young people. Guendelsberger says since the attack, things are different for her.

Ms. EMILY GUENDELSBERGER: Like, I am afraid of, like, young, black men now. It's very annoying, because there are a lot of young, black men in Philadelphia. Like, I honestly just wish that I could go back to how I was before.

FIEDLER: Leaders from the African-American community stood beside the mayor when he announced the city's plan. Commissioner Ramsey says community support will be key to stopping the violence.

For NPR News, I'm Elizabeth Fiedler, in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.