Please give the curfew a try, Columbia council

My youngest daughter, the dancer, was between contracts with ballet companies and spent much of the summer in New York — staying with a friend in Brooklyn, but spending most of her time in Manhattan — working at a restaurant at night, taking ballet classes and working out at a gym in the daytime.

The place she was staying was at the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and disturbingly close to Bedford-Stuyvesant on the map. She was at a disadvantage in her neighborhood not speaking Spanish (I coached her with a few phrases, but there’s only so much you can teach in brief phone conversations). She rode the subway at all hours, often alone, because of her schedule.

Of course we worried. She’s 21, and therefore technically an adult. But not to me.

This past weekend was her first full weekend back in town. She went to a party for a friend in Olympia Saturday night. After that, she went to meet one of her best friends, who works late in Five Points.

It was the first time in the last few months she felt unsafe. The young kids milling about in Five Points, some apparently in gang colors, caused her to feel something she hadn’t felt in New York — or in Charlotte living there all last year.

I had heard from Five Points business people about the growing problem of teenagers who are too young to get into the bars loitering in the streets in large numbers. I had heard, recently, that THAT was the context of the shootings that have happened in the vicinity in recent months.

This made me start to think that — while I still think closing bars at 2 a.m. is a good idea — that wasn’t the solution to the violence. A curfew for kids under 18 sounds like a better solution.

This will probably set off some of my libertarian friends here on the blog, but I don’t care. This makes sense. And kids have no business on the street late at night.

To quote from the story in The State today:

Most anyone younger than 18 would be under an 11 p.m. curfew in the city of Columbia, and adults strolling a sidewalk with an open can of beer could land in jail for a month if two proposals before City Council on Wednesday become law.

Both changes in city ordinances are being driven by a summer of youth violence in Five Points, in which two men were shot in three incidents. The violence, reportedly springing from youth gang turf wars, has cut deeply into the revenue of merchants in the busy business district, which is popular with USC students, said Scott Linaberry, president of the Five Points Association.

I urge Columbia City Council to pass this curfew tomorrow.

I also urge them to keep moving toward merging city police and Sheriff Leon Lott’s department as soon as possible. Leon was working to address the gang problem long before any other local cops would even acknowledge there was a problem.

Well, there IS a problem. And it’s gotten pretty bad. And a curfew is one common-sense tool to use in addressing some of the problems that gangs bring.

As for the open-container proposal — I don’t know what I think about that yet. I’m not as clear on exactly how that plays into the problem that we’re trying to address here. Perhaps some of you are more familiar with that than I. But the curfew seems an obvious, reasonable step to take.

12 thoughts on “Please give the curfew a try, Columbia council

  1. Mark Stewart

    It is always better to seek solutions to problems that actually exist.

    While I believe that adults have every right to stay up all night; that certainly doesn’t apply to kids under 18. If you look young and you can’t prove your age, you should be sent home by any means necessary.

  2. Doug Ross

    Curfews for under 18 is fine with me. Once they reach voting age, however, they are adults in my book and responsible for their actions.

  3. Herbie

    A month in jail for a can of beer on the street? really? Way overkill.

    Curfew for 17 and younger makes sense.

    Closing all bars at 2am? Rediculous. The 3 shootings this summer happened WELL before 2am.

    That is all.

  4. Phillip

    I’m a civil libertarian as you know, a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I know they’ve expressed some concerns about the curfew—but in this case I think they’re completely in the wrong. When you’re talking about under-18’s, it’s not a question of superseding parental rights—if you’re letting your underage kids roam 5 Points or the streets anywhere after midnight, you’ve–by definition–relinquished the exercise of those responsibilities by your very actions. Or inactions.

    Incidentally, Bed-Stuy is not quite the totally scary place that it got its reputation for in the 60’s and 70’s…even by the 90’s it was changing, and was gentrifying fast at least till the recent economic downturn. (And as we know from crime statistics, NYC has for some time been a less dangerous place per capita than Columbia, or Charlotte especially for example.) If your daughter gets homesick for southern cooking (though ballet dancers probably don’t want to be eating too much of that stuff) Country Kitchen on Atlantic Avenue and Saratoga in Bed-Stuy is still there I think, has long been a NY hangout for expatriate Carolinians.

  5. Greg Jones

    I’m sure the businesses are in favor of a curfew, and that’s who the city should be listening to.
    When their paying customers stop coming, and businesses close and tax revenues stop, nobody will care about some teenager’s civil rights.

  6. Chris Oder

    Include a fine for the parents…

    $50 a pop every time their kid is out late and they’ll nail the windows in the kid’s bedroom shut real fast…

  7. Doug Ross


    “but the city attorney asked to speak to the council behind closed doors about some concerns he has about it…”

    What, pray tell, would require a closed door session? There is very little government business that should go on behind closed doors.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    “This made me start to think that — while I still think closing bars at 2 a.m. is a good idea — that wasn’t the solution to the violence. A curfew for kids under 18 sounds like a better solution.”

    It’s not an either/or situation. We (I am on the task force) are attempting to attack on several fronts. We are the most lax, it seems on several of these fronts compared to other SC cities. We need to shut down Hamsterdam (Five Points lawlessness), before Five Points is killed by the roving bands of what a cop called “people of approximately the same race and age wearing clothing of the same colors.”

    Open container is a problem in large part because people are taking their party outside to smoke and hangout and clog the sidewalks and get into skirmishes outside the watchful eye of the bouncers, and can easily slip drinks to their underaged ID-less friends. They also become easier targets. If they have to drink inside, they will smoke (or not!) and go back inside to drink. In my neighborhood, open containers seem to mean a party in the skreets many weekend nights and lots of litter.

    And Herbie, some of the shootings did occur after 2 AM, but chiefly the unified earlier closing means the police can concentrate their efforts–it saves scarce police resources.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    All I can say about the closed door session is that I suspect Gaines doesn’t want to give a potential plaintiff a road map for a law suit. I wish he had been there to hear the testimony of the Greenville Police Chief last Thursday at the Task Force meeting. She said there had been no blow back from anyone, and the NAACP was very supportive. It was all very consensual, she said, and they have only had to have one case go to court.

Comments are closed.