Cleveland Heights City Council voted 6-1 to for at Monday’s regular meeting.
City officials and some business owners say the ordinances enacted are working, and they’ve seen flash mobs and other disturbances at in the past few months.
“We know that this legislation is not some kind of silver bullet to make these problems go away,” said Councilman Kenneth Montlack as he reviewed the new ordinance. He said it’s just one of many approaches the city and police department are taking to curb seemingly minor youth crimes like walking in the street.
For example, from about Oct. 4 to Oct. 17, the police department issued at least 80 citations to kids walking in the middle of the street, said Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson. And officers have conducted “” and brought students skipping school back to .
Robertson said there have been at least three incidents where large groups of youth have gathered at Severance, planning the meet-ups through social media like Facebook and Twitter. The groups of mostly teens, , prompted the when some estimate after the . Fights broke out and 16 teens were arrested, and the . Two of the 16 were from Cleveland Heights.
Cleveland Heights had seen the clusters of kids at arts fairs in the past. And in February 2010, police arrested six people outside of the Regal Cinemas in Severance in what Kelley called a “near riot.” A year later, approximately 200 youth gathered there, and additional officers had to help disperse the group.
In August, police had to escort a large but unknown number of youth off the property on two different occasions, Robertson said. Just last month, 50 to 60 gathered at Severance, he said, but police did not arrest anyone.
Police have arrested 13 youth in the special curfew districts since the law was passed in June and given out hundreds of warnings, Robertson said. And police continue to .
City Council to 6 a.m. for anyone under 18 in the Coventry and Cedar Lee business districts, and later to accommodate student athletes, kids who are going to the library, those who work in the district and youth who are attending shows, among other considerations. Basically, they have to have a purpose for being in the business districts and carry letters in some circumstances. Council members said that they will continue to monitor the progress and modify the law.
While , 15 people attended Monday night's meeting, and only four people spoke about the curfew legislation.
One resident came to speak on behalf of her daughter, who is a member of the Youth of Coventry. The group of 12- to 25-year-olds once supported council’s decision to implement a 6 p.m. curfew, but or at least pushed back to 8 p.m. They want a place to hang out after school.
While council members unanimously approved previous curfew laws, Councilwoman Bonnie Caplan voted no. She said after meeting with the Youth of Coventry Sunday, she wants to seek other options.
“These are really terrific kids … and it’s too punishing. We need to have another solution,” Caplan said after the meeting. She said she’d like to pursue a grant after the first of the year to study other alternatives.
“Yes curfew has protected our business districts and brought a certain level of peace,” she said. “…but most (youth) do not come to cause trouble.”
Mayor Ed Kelley has said several times that the troublemakers are "not our kids," but policies still need to be put in place to make the city safe.
Cleveland Heights resident Susan Miller said some branches of United Dairy Farmers are now playing classical music, sometimes loudly, to drive kids who are loitering outside the store away and prevent other crimes. The city could come up with more creative solutions to the problem, she said.
Since the curfew laws have been enacted, she said youth have been pushed out of the business districts and into her neighborhood, and often hang out in front of her house.
“It’s been kind of like the wild west in the neighborhood,” she said.
Cleveland Heights resident Adele Eisner said though 6 p.m. may be a bit early, she’s seen “an amazing, positive effect,” and is glad this ordinance was passed before the busy holiday shopping season at Severance.
More amendments were added at Monday’s meeting, which apply to all three of the special curfew districts.
Minors are exempt from the new curfew law:
- when attending, and while going directly to or from a controlled-admission recreation venue with the knowledge and consent of the parent (such as the movie theater)
- when the minor is attending a City Council meeting, visiting or the or engaging in First Amendment rights as long as the youth are not loitering.
- when the minor is seeking or accompanying another person seeking medical treatment.
- when the minor is returning to or leaving his/her residence.
- when the minor who is a lawful visitor is entering or leaving another person’s residence.
Look for more from the City Council meeting soon.