By Edgar Mendez
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
By the end of the first weekend since Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Police Chief Jeffrey Norman announced that the city would ramp up enforcement of the curfew for minors, 11 citations have been issued, according to the Milwaukee Police Department.
Six citations were issued on May 17, the Tuesday the citywide policy was announced at a news conference, and five tickets were issued Sunday.
According to police, two of those citations were issued to parents, and some of the individuals that were cited were also cited for other violations. Information on where those violations occurred or whether the 11 was more than average was not immediately available.
The curfew requires anyone under the age of 18 and not accompanied by a parent or guardian be off the streets and other public property from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on other nights. The daily curfew will shift to 11 p.m. from June 1 to Aug. 31. Fines for violating curfew range from $100 to $200.
The policy was announced after 21 people, including two minors, were injured in three downtown shootings that occurred during and after a Milwaukee Bucks playoff game on May 13. No deaths occurred in the shootings, although three other people died that night in other shootings in the city. Of those who have been charged in the downtown shootings, the youngest was 19.
Originally, enforcement of a curfew was limited to the downtown area near Fiserv Forum, where the Bucks play, with citywide enforcement announced a day later.
So far this year in Milwaukee, there have been 83 homicides and 295 nonfatal shooting victims, according to data from the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission. Thirtyfive minors were victims in nonfatal shootings and 11 were killed.
Parents speak out
NNS spoke to more than 10 parents on the issue, but many didn’t want to go on the record. One who agreed to share her story and supports the curfew was South Sider Deborah Montano Luna. She said the curfew, which has been on the books for years but was not widely enforced, helps keep out-of-control kids off the streets.
“For their own safety, they should be at home,” said Luna, a mother of three adult children and one minor and grandmother of three.
Slyainia Jones of Milwaukee, whose four children range from four months to 8 years old, also agrees with the policy but doesn’t know if it will reduce crime.
“The crime that’s been happening lately has been over petty arguments and people just need to take anger management or we need to be stricter on guns,” she said.
Many who responded to a post about curfew enforcement on the popular Milwaukee Southsiderz Facebook page also said parents should be held responsible when their child violates curfew.
“Parents still need to be held accountable for their children’s behavior,” read one post. “Who knows, fining the parents also just might start to help.”
Community activist Laura Manriquez said it’s hard to pin responsibility on all parents, considering some have children who sneak out at night and others work the third shift and depend on others to watch them.
On the flip side, she said she knows there are children who have irresponsible parents and youths who are violent and are a threat to the safety of others. Still, she said, those issues stem from larger societal problems, including drug and alcohol addiction and the lack of positive activities in the neighborhood.
“How about free programs to keep kids engaged like when I was growing up?” Manriquez said. “These kids need to be deprogrammed and reprogrammed with positivity in their life.”
Patricia Torres Nájera, executive director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, said while she thinks the curfew enforcement is a start in the right direction, work to keep youths safe begins much earlier.
“Are the parents involved? Do they know how their children are doing in school?” she asked. She said both youths and parents need to become more involved in the community.
“It takes everybody to make this city a better place,” Nájera added.