If you're not doing anything wrong, the ordinance won't affect you

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By Alice Du Pont

I don't see anything wrong with the proposed youth protection ordinance. In essence, the ordinance calls for a curfew and does not allow minors (people under 17 years old who have not been emancipated) to hang out between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The ordinance is partially the result of citizen complaints about kids roaming the streets at night, fighting and loitering around businesses. Police chief Ferman Richardson said the ordinance is also intended to protect minors from victimization and criminal activity as well as promote parental control and responsibility.

Neither the police department nor the interim city attorney Larry White have any hard statistics on how this will affect juvenile crime or if it will prevent a child from being victimized by an adult.

Commissioner Derrick Elias said he showed the proposed ordinance to some folks who work with at the Department of Juvenile Justice and they didn't like it. Personally, I don't see the citizens of Quincy caring one iota whether people at the DJJ like or dislike what we do in Quincy.

I would hate to see the ordinance junked. Quincy is a small town and the crimes that juveniles commit are equal proportionately to the population. Our kids are no better and no worse that any others in the nation. Some cities have imposed curfews and others have not for a variety of reasons.

But if the ordinance discourages loitering, I'm all for it. I know that the young man who was killed in Tallahassee at the Circle K was in his 20s but there were lots of school-age teens in the same parking lot and it was 4:30 in the morning.

If a parent had to go to the morgue to identify his or her child, it's an extreme example but not entirely far-fetched, I'm sure that parent would rather have a curfew. This talk about kids not having anything to do is nonsense. Since when has boredom been eliminated by standing on a street corner? To me, that the most boring thing I can imagine.

“Bored" is a word that kids like use. I would venture to say that if you asked a teen in New York City what there is to do, he or she would say nothing, followed by "this place is boring." All of you who can remember what it was like being a teenager can also remember there weren't too many things that made you happy.

There are also many adults out there waiting to prey on our youth. If this ordinance saves one even unsuspecting youth from falling into harm's way, it has been a success. I often watch the ABC news show, "To Catch A Predator." It's sobering and often scary to see how adults lure these kids using the Internet.

But there are so many more who cruise city streets looking for kids who are out and about at all times of the night. The ordinance isn't intended to put kids in jail or force their parents to pay fines. Anyone knows the difference between seeing three or four guys walking with a purpose and seeing guys darting in and out of doorways.

I have seen teenagers walking our city streets late at night and early mornings (between midnight and 3 a.m.) and they weren't going to work. They may not have had anything criminal in mind – they could have simply been out for a walk.

What's wrong with a police officer asking them where they are going and advising them to go home?

But there are so many bad things that can happen to our children that are far worse than a curfew. No doubt there are thousands of reasons folks can think of for opposing the ordinance. Everyone will have the opportunity to have their say during a series of town meetings that were suggested by Commissioner Keith Dowdell.

I urge parents and all interested parties, which includes everyone in the city, to attend one of the meetings.