Getting New Haven’s youth off the streets was the primary concern of the Aldermanic Youth Committee meeting Wednesday evening.
In a meeting room at City Hall, the five-alderman committee met to discuss a series of issues affecting New Haven youth. Although many problems were addressed — including a lack of civic engagement, teen pregnancy and violence prevention — nothing was decided.
In light of the recent shooting arrest of a 16-year-old New Haven resident early Monday morning, the committee members first focused their attention on the creation of safe recreational places for the city’s children. Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards directly voiced this concern.
“I hate to say it, but it’s not a family-oriented city,” Edwards said. “There’s nothing for our young people to do.”
Edwards further suggested that New Haven work to find a safe place for youth to go in the downtown area.
“Other towns have water parks, malls, what do we have?” she asked.
Meeting attendants expressed their ideas on how to reduce youth-driven violence. Amid discussion of civic engagement and teen pregnancy, Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacquelin James stressed the lack of life-skills programs that teach and encourage self-sufficiency for teenage residents.
“Our kids deserve more than just dance and basketball,” James asserted. “Youth just are not getting the skills and tools they need to become the respectable adults we expect them to be.”
Committee chairwoman Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances Clark and New Haven Director of Youth Services Che Dawson considered ways to expand upon programs already initiated in local schools. The members agreed that connecting Youth Services with existing school projects was crucial in engaging more children.
But when the committee members discussed the possibility of a youth curfew, James was quick to oppose. New Haven could not attempt to enforce a curfew on the teenagers of the city without including it in a more comprehensive plan of violence prevention, she said.
The aldermen also voiced concern that a youth curfew would be futile because most of the youth who commit violent crimes would simply ignore it.
“It’s apathy and hopelessness,” proclaimed James. “New Haven’s youth won’t change until we can eliminate these feelings.”