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Southern California Voices / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY

Today's Topic

March 14, 1994

There is no question that crimes by young people are a big problem. In 1992, the most recent year for which figures are available, juvenile homicides, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults climbed to their highest levels in the nation's history. And fear among the public is growing along with the statistics.

In an effort to stem crimes by and against juveniles, Inglewood city officials have approved a plan for a curfew for minors under 18 that begins Friday. The old curfew was aimed at kids 16 or younger. Santa Monica also instituted a new curfew late last year. Curfews have been around for years, but they are being enforced more frequently as crimes by juveniles increase.

In Youth Opinion, kids living in Inglewood give their thoughts on what the city's tougher curfew means and how they will respond to it.

Inglewood Police Chief Oliver M. Thompson says the kids have nothing to fear if they have a legitimate reason for being out after the curfew. "I'm not only a police chief, I'm a father. I live in town. I've got a 17-year-old. He's a junior in high school. I've said to my son, 'I don't believe the police are going to be hassling you. There's a law that says you shouldn't be on the street at a certain time unless you're going back and forth to official functions,' " such as sports activities.

Thompson says gang activity is part of the reason for the new law. "Our gang activity in many instances has gone down. But you only need one unfortunate situation," says the chief, referring to a 24-hour period in January in which a teen-age girl, a toddler and three other people were slain in the city.

Thompson says merchants have complained about kids loitering. "When you have a gang of kids loitering or wandering aimlessly, hanging out, merchants might say, 'Well, what's in that young person's mind?' It may not be a fear that is (based) in reality, but it's a perception of what might occur. And that is what we're dealing with."

Thompson says there are some recreational activities for kids in Inglewood that would keep them off the streets at night. "Matt Robinson, the parks and recreation director and I are working late night basketball Tuesday and Friday night. If there are not enough places for kids to go, then that comes back on the city adults--mothers and fathers--to say if this really is an issue then we need to work together to provide a place where our young people can go."

In Santa Monica, a new law was put into effect last September. Police Sgt. Gary Gallinot, the chief's adjutant, says the old ordinance was found to be unconstitutional because it was not specific about what constitutes loitering. He says the new law was enacted after the city started to experience an influx of juveniles from other areas in 1990.

This time, the city tried to educate the public about the new curfew before it went into effect, Gallinot says. "We went out to the community, we went out to the schools. We talked to the kids in the schools about what curfew was and what it wasn't and how we were going to enforce it."

According to Gallinot, kids understand the curfew that is in force now "and for the most part are respecting it."

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