Last weekend, three Chicago teenagers were shot after violence broke out during large gatherings of young people downtown and on the South Side. The official response was predictable: Police reinstated a 6 p.m. curfew for minors at Millennium Park, adding to the 10 p.m. citywide curfew for those 17 and younger.
The gatherings, which took place during unseasonably warm weather, aren’t a new phenomenon for the city; crowds of young people have been congregating downtown for years. Nor are they unique to Chicago: Earlier this month, hundreds of young people met up near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where a fight reportedly broke out and two teens were shot. Just days before that incident, four teenagers were issued citations after a large crowd of young people convened at downtown Philadelphia’s Fashion District mall.
In both cases, the response was to again institute a curfew. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott declared that the city would go “back to the old days” of its strict youth curfew policy, and the Philadelphia mall, a private entity, banned people under 18 from being there without an adult after 2 p.m. Philly permanently established a 10 p.m. curfew for teenagers in December.
It’s a common reaction to crime among young people — over 400 local and state governments have curfew laws, according to the National Youth Rights Association — and one that’s persisted since the 1990s “tough on crime” era. But there’s a problem: Research shows that curfews don’t work, and that they might actually increase crime.
It’s a pivotal time for cities to address violence among young people. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American kids, and 2022 was a record year for the number of children and teenagers wounded or killed by gunfire; between 2019 and 2021, gun deaths among people under 18 increased 50 percent. And in Baltimore and Philadelphia, where overall shootings have started to slow, young people are still getting shot at a record pace. Criminalizing kids’ presence in public places hasn’t made a difference — so what could?
Advocates say cities should create safe places for kids to hang out, by investing in community services and public spaces like pools and recreation centers, and give them job opportunities. Kara Crutcher, an attorney for Chicago youth nonprofit Good Kids, Mad City, suggested employing teenagers as anti-violence workers, placing the responsibility to keep neighborhoods safe in their own hands.
Teenagers have their own ideas, too: Last summer, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot expanded Chicago’s curfew, young people spoke to The Trace’s Justin Agrelo about their experience of the city’s gun violence crisis, and told him that they often feel left out of policy decisions that affect them. Some mentioned large-scale solutions like curbing access to guns; others pointed to some less-obvious solutions, like expanding the public transit system to reduce wait times.
“In our generation, we’re used to older people not listening to us or hearing what we have to say,” said Indya Pinkard, then 19. “We have voices, too. What if they had curfews? They would feel the same way as the youth. … There’s some very intelligent, good youth out here that are being punished because of the acts of a few. We only have one life. Let us live it to the fullest.”
From Our Team
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What to Know This Week
Seven mass shootings — defined as an incident in which four or more people were injured or killed, excluding the shooter — took place on April 15, the most of any day so far this year; the number includes shootings at a Sweet 16 party in Dadeville, Alabama, and at a park in Louisville, Kentucky. The U.S. has already seen more than 160 mass shootings in 2023, with attacks taking place in almost every type of public and private space. [CNN/Stacker]
Tennessee lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would further shield gun companies from civil liability lawsuits; the legislation now heads to Governor Bill Lee. The bill comes as Lee’s administration has been urging the General Assembly to pass an extreme risk protection order, or red flag, law. In a letter, dozens of Nashville musicians — including Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, and Jason Isbell — joined the governor in calling for a red flag law. [Associated Press/The Tennessean]
An environmental activist who was shot and killed by law enforcement while protesting “Cop City,” the site of a proposed police training facility near Atlanta, sustained at least 57 bullet wounds, according to an autopsy by the Dekalb County medical examiner. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claims there is no body camera footage of the shooting. [CBS]
In Michigan, the Democratic-controlled Legislature sent a red flag bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk. Whitmer signed legislation expanding background checks and mandating safe firearm storage into law last week. [Detroit Free Press]
The debate over “stand your ground” laws reignited this week when, just days apart, homeowners shot two people — Ralph Yarl, in Kansas City, Missouri; and Kaylin Gillis, in upstate New York — when the victims mistakenly approached the wrong houses. Yarl survived after suffering head and arm wounds; Gillis, shot in the neck, was killed. Two Texas teenagers were also shot in an Austin suburb after one of them entered a vehicle she thought was her own. [Associated Press]
This week marked the 30-year anniversary of the conclusion of the Waco siege, a botched ATF operation that resulted in 76 deaths over the course of a 51-day standoff between law enforcement and members of the Branch Davidian sect. The siege kick-started the contemporary militia movement and inspired antigovernment extremists, including the Oklahoma City bomber. [CBS/Southern Poverty Law Center]
Hawaii police vowed to increase enforcement of illegal gambling laws, following one of the most serious shootings in state history that apparently resulted from an argument at the end of a cockfight. [Associated Press]
Family members of children killed in the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde waited more than 12 hours to testify before a Texas House committee on a bill to raise the age to purchase some semiautomatic rifles to 21. [The Texas Tribune] Context: Uvalde families have rallied around the push for a raise-the-age law. They view it as a compromise, grounded in the reality that Texas is a gun state.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is wrangling with members of her party to finalize a state budget that will potentially include $126 million for gun violence prevention. The allocation has few spending requirements and is not subject to competitive bidding laws or review by the New York State comptroller. [Gotham Gazette]
“Gun grabber:” That’s how a recent ad from a political group aligned with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis described former President Donald Trump, as the fight between the two likely front runners for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination heats up. [Bloomberg] Context: The ad targeted Trump for backing red flag laws in 2019 after a series of mass shootings.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have encouraged elementary and middle schools in the state to participate in the Eddie Eagle program, an NRA-developed child gun safety curriculum. Kelly said the bill was an “act of legislative overreach” and an attempt “to insert partisan politics” into education. [Kansas Reflector]
Agya K. Aning and Chip Brownlee contributed to this section.
Daryll Straughter, 48, was a beloved presence in Detroit’s Greektown district: He’d worked as a security guard in the area for more than two decades, a man who “watched and protected everybody,” his wife told the local ABC affiliate. The father of four was shot just before his shift at a liquor store last weekend, when he stepped in to help resolve an argument about line-cutting, and died of his injuries shortly after. Nicknamed “Big D,” Straughter was known for his kindness — he was “just a real good guy,” said a local community violence prevention organizer. “He deserved a thousand rewards for the lives that he impacted and the footprints that he left,” one of his sons told the ABC station. “This is devastating to a lot of us, to lose an angel like him.”
Don’t Look Away From Dadeville: “Gun violence takes many forms. Don’t look away because the details in this shooting failed to fit your first impressions. You might accidentally be looking in the right place. Because when we dismiss a shooting as something that wouldn’t happen to us — whoever us is — we guarantee that it will happen again.” [Alabamafication]
“If we had better community services, our youth wouldn’t gather in one common place but in different places where resources are available. Our young people want to be heard and want to feel safe, but we are doing a very poor job in the city of Chicago at giving them those safe spaces.”
— Anjanette Young, a social worker and activist, on Chicago’s response to large gatherings of young people that broke out in violence, to the Chicago Tribune