Because of concerns over the increasing level and frequency of violence in Cambridge, the City Council is studying a possible solution.
But not everyone is on board with it.
On Nov. 14, the council held the first reading of Ordinance 1207, new legislation that proposes a city-wide curfew. It would require juveniles 15 and younger to be home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Any youth violating the curfew would receive a warning. Upon a second offense, the parents would be fined $100, with $200 fines for each subsequent violation.
The Gun Violence Reduction Task Group put forward the legislation to address worries over children’s potentially risky nocturnal activities and associations. This pilot program would collect data so officials could decide if it is appropriate for Cambridge.
“This gives us the opportunity to assist parents in knowing where their kids are,” said Theresa Stafford, who was recently elected to the Dorchester County Board of Education. “It also provides an opportunity to collect data as to why children are out of their homes unsupervised.”
Mayor Stephen Rideout, who will host a public forum on Monday, Nov. 28, at 6 p.m. at the City Council chambers, said he thinks the passage of a curfew ordinance is premature.
“I have not met anyone that thinks that the curfew is the answer,” he said, adding that he spoke to a former local police officer who indicated a curfew had been tried before in Cambridge without positive results.
Stafford, however, said that other jurisdictions have implemented successful curfews, and that Cambridge could learn from those successes as well as any mistakes.
She also pointed out that the Gun Violence Reduction Task Group has been meeting for more than a year, during which time it has collected data from meetings and other gatherings.
“The decision to make this recommendation was not done in a vacuum and should not be discounted,” she said.
Rideout is more interested in exploring other avenues, though it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
“I tried to speak with the sponsor of the legislation about alternatives,” he said, “but she declined to talk to me about them.”
Because the police department has not had the chance to consider possible options to implement, Rideout prepared a data-collection form for the police chief so he can learn what his officers will find about the number of children out late, their estimated ages, their activities and where they are located.
This data potentially would help determine if the problem is widespread or limited to certain areas and how many kids are involved.
Rideout also thinks that, rather than punish the parents with fines, the city should seek federal, state and foundation funding for after-school and weekend programs to give the community’s youth alternatives.
He revealed that he has seen interest from organizations who would like to help provide services to address the challenges the city faces with its youth.
But Stafford is focused on one goal at this point. “The one and only reason for a curfew is to provide a safe environment for our community.”
A second reading of the proposed ordinance is planned for Monday, Dec. 12, and the council promises there will be more discussion and debate before a vote. If approved, the curfew pilot program would last until August of next year.