In response to a recent surge in crime among New Haven youth, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01 is drafting a proposal for a parental accountability program that may include a new citywide curfew.

The proposal, which Chen said is still in its initial planning stage and has not been presented to the full Board of Aldermen, currently includes plans to recruit volunteers to patrol streets alongside police at night. The volunteers would escort any youths they find out on the streets back to their homes and issue tickets to the parents. Chen said her program is designed to increase parental accountability and reduce the number of children who are out late.

“What we’re concerned with is the fact that when young people are outside late at night, there are bad things that happen [to them],” she said. “We want to make sure that these people are safe and identify why they are outside.”

New Haven already has a curfew law, dating back to 1928, prohibiting children under 14 from going out between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m., but it is rarely enforced. Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards said there was a failed initiative to pass a citywide curfew in the early 1990s in response to a significant increase in youth crime at the time.

Edwards said she views a citywide curfew as a last resort and does not think the current situation deserves the implementation of such a measure.

“I think that most of our kids aren’t out looking for trouble,” she said. “They want to be among their peers.”

Mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said the city government discussed the option of enforcing a citywide curfew but preferred to concentrate its resources on constructive measures to integrate youths into the community, since parents have a certain responsibility beyond the control of the government.

“[A curfew] was talked about, but we decided that we’d pursue the initiatives, the employment, and the mentoring and the open schools, and that those things were positive steps,” he said. “Parents need to know where their 16-year-old is at midnight.”

Sean Englehart, a pastor at the Safe Christian Fellowship, said he is in favor of a curfew as he thinks it will encourage parents to look after their children in a more responsible manner.

“I am in favor of a curfew, [but] it would have to be within reason,” he said. “There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood that are out in big groups at late hours, and I really think the parents should be able to control their kids a bit better and keep them in.”

The city is already implementing various programs for young people. On Jan. 1, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced the implementation of a new youth policy aided in part by the $797,000 federal grant awarded to the School Readiness Council in November.

Chen said she will present a full proposal to the Board of Aldermen within the next few weeks.

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