O.K., Jason, I'm trying to mellow out, as you suggested in your column last week deriding our alderman's proposal for a 10 p.m. curfew for teenagers on weeknights to combat crime. But tell that to Michelle, the neighbor who commented online to your essay:
Guy shot and killed out our window last night. Heard 5-6 pops that sounded like firecrackers. Then lots of police and fire trucks. Heard the whole thing. Am I supposed to let my kids walk through there on their way to school?
The "guy" shot and killed was 17 years old Karamee Collins Jr. on Leland/Balsam Road sometime between 10 and 10:15 Tuesday night.
In "Meadowood should mellow out" you write:
Many of my neighbors continue to insist that something drastic be done. They say kids are frightening residents and wreaking havoc. Isthmus blogger David Blaska has warned of "wilding in the streets" of the southwest side.
Pham-Remmele has encouraged these reactions, forwarding one recent email from a concerned resident under the heading, "Our Neighborhood Has Tipped!"
Let's all take a deep breath.
I'm taking that deep breath, Jason, but only to reload.
Here is the irony: if the Common Council had passed Ald. Thuy's curfew, one could make the case that Karamee might be alive today. Police have announced the arrests of three juveniles.
They have named two of them and they are 16 years old. Even so, they are being treated as adults. The third juvenile's age was not given as this is being written. Likely he is even younger. As Thuy's ordinance amendment was originally introduced, it would have moved the curfew up to 10 p.m. on weekday nights for anyone under age 18.
It is possible that neither Karamee nor his suspected killers, had the curfew been enforced, would have been out and about.
Take a seat in a police squad car
Jason, you asked:
Does our community really believe the best way to confront at-risk kids who are out at night without adult supervision, engaging in no criminal activity, is to put them in the back of a squad car? [Subhead: Loud, rude young people may not require a police response.]
I got to think sitting in the back of a squad car is one of the safer places you can be in Meadowood these days. If Karamee Collins Jr. had been in the backseat of a squad car Tuesday night, he might still be alive. At least the boy would have some quality time with a responsible adult.
Jason, you are welcome to cite college studies claiming curfews are ineffective. But the Madison Police Department is not convinced. Neither is Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who imposes a curfew exactly on Thuy's terms: anyone under age 17 must be in at 10 p.m. on weeknights -- a full hour earlier than in Madison.
Hell, if Karamee the younger had been living in Hartford, Connecticut, he would have been subject to the curfew. Time magazine reports:
Mayor Eddie Perez said in a statement: "We must do this because we cannot and will not tolerate innocent people, especially children, to be victims." [Time, "Curfews: A New Crime-Fighting Tool"]
A 1997 survey of 347 cities of 30,000 population or greater by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that:
- 80% of the cities (or 276) have a curfew
- 93% of those that had them said a curfew is a useful tool for police officers
- 88% said that curfew enforcement helps to make streets safer for residents
- 83% said that a curfew helps to curb gang violence
Now let's say the legal system didn't wink at young Karamee Junior's battery of another teenager this past February. Let's say instead of being placed in the First Offender's program, he gets thrown into Juvie detention. Might still be alive.
'It's like Lord of the Flies out there'
"It's like Lord of the Flies out there," said a young father who lives in that 'hood and among those hoods in a strategy session that ended only hours before the fatal shooting not far from his apartment. The reference was to the classic novel exploring how teenage boys without adults descend into savagery.
Unlike a lot of kids in the Russsett/Balsam neighborhood the latest victim apparently did have a father in his life -- but he was worse off for it. The Wisconsin State Journal reports Collins Senior intervened in a brawl his son was engaged in -- not to break it up but to "for allegedly threatening to hit another teen who was attempting to break up the fight."
But then, according to a Madison Police Officer who patrols the area, Balsam/Russett is full of parolees, probationers, and ankle bracelet wearers.
Because here is what is making me crazier than I already am: Now Gov. Jim E. Doyle is letting criminals out of jail earlier. Mind you, the statehouse Democrats are not proposing to step up rehabilitation to make up the difference. No, they're being let out early purely to cut corners because the state has dug a budget hole and Mark Pocan has earmarks he wants to dispense, including one of The Kathleen's pet projects, an environmental center on the Yahara River.
So, maybe if Karamee Collins Senior was cooling his jets in the state pen maybe his boy would still be alive today.
Or if the Toki Middle School principal would start cooperating with the police. A foron writes:
A principal once called the cops, after my son punched a kid. I thanked the principal.
Today's parents are more likely to call the ACLU or the EOC. They know all about their rights but aren't too clear on the responsibilities part.
Here is the funny thing, Jason. Ald. Thuy and old curmudgeons like David Blaska actually have a lot more empathy for these young people than you give us credit. We happen to think that all the moral equivalency is not helping them.
A strange kind of moral equivalency
Jason, did you really mean to compare people mowing their lawn with gangs of teenagers shouting the M-F word at full volume? Need we explain that the former are taking care of their property while the latter are abusing ... themselves, really.
Think about it: what kind of respect does a young man have for himself -- forget about the neighborhood -- when his pants are hanging down around his knees, his hands are at his crotch and his mouth is functioning as a sewer pipe?
Tell me how making these reverse-racism allowances for depraved behavior is preparing him for higher education, a meaningful job, home ownership, and a family? No more rudeness, no more swearing, no more littering or loitering, no more trespassing, no more fighting, no more graffiti. No excuses.
Remember when Thuy said:
"I co-sponsored this ordinance with Alder Jed Sanborn to keep youth from staying out late, especially on school nights, to protect vulnerable juveniles from the dark side as well as to curb negative activities that affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods."
For that, the only minority member of the Common Council was labeled a racist.
Yes, yes, programs and more programs. But first this word from our sponsors: before the good stuff can work you got to quit doing the bad stuff. That's what adults do, isn't it? They set parameters and they impose consequences.
Time to grow up children and act like real men. We're going to help you.
The mayor speaketh and traveleth
So now Mayor Cieslewicz is convening "a meeting in my office with neighborhood leaders, alders, school officials, police and community leaders to address public safety concerns in our community."
That will have to wait until after he returns on Monday from a convention, the Congress for the New Urbanism, in Denver.
I have posed this question to the Mayor and am awaiting his answer: Will Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele be invited, having been stripped from the influential Community Block Development Grant Commission and relegated to inspecting food carts?
Let me renew my call to the mayor: Come to Meadowood. Stay overnight. Hang out in the hood.