Cleveland Heights City Council will consider for minors to Severance Town Center at tonight’s regular meeting.
City officials and some business owners say the ordinances enacted are working, and they’ve seen problems at in the past few months.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction. We have a responsibility to make Severance safe,” Mayor Ed Kelley said. “It’s working. I fully expect council will take (the 6 p.m. curfew law in Severance) up on second reading on Nov. 21. We have a responsibility to make sure our city is safe for the people who live here and visit here and shop here and work here.”
Police Chief Jeffrey 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.
Flash mobs (which historically haven't always had a negative connotation; the AT&T commercial is a perfect example,) have sprouted up in communities around the country, sometimes resulting in confrontations with police.
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 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.
Kelley said in June that the city had discussed curfew laws before this year's arts fair, inspired by a earlier this year.
The previous curfew laws were tailored to different age groups — kids younger than 12 had to be in by 6 p.m., 12 to 15-year-olds could stay out until 10:30 p.m. and those 16 to 18 didn't have to be home until midnight.
Other communities that have seen similar stunts aren't taking the curfew approach.
Strongsville Police Chief Charles Goss told Strongsville Patch that he wasn't even after several hundred teens followed (Colson Baker) and went to Westfield SouthPark Aug. 20.
Baker and two others jumped on tables in the food court and refused to get down. Police charged them with disorderly conduct.
But Goss said there are already laws on the books that prohibit riots and other unruly behavior.
"People need to know these things are already banned," he said. "I don't think any new ordinances or statutes need to be created."
Steve Presser, owner of in Coventry, said he’s happy with the new curfew laws and supports council’s decision to maintain and expand them.
“We have a very calm neighborhood. It has been a work in progress, and I give credit to the officials because they did their homework,” Presser said. “They knew they were going to make changes. From a merchant standpoint, it’s been great.”
Kelley said that he also received a thank you letter from the owner of . And he said though thousands of mostly youth came to Cedar Lee to watch the in a , there were no problems.
A group of 12- to 25-year-olds that calls itself the once to implement a 6 p.m. curfew in the Coventry and Cedar Lee business districts.
Now, members have changed their mind. They don’t think the curfew should apply to Severance and that it should be lifted from Coventry and Cedar Lee.
“Before it was a safety issue, but now it’s infringing on our rights,” said John Nelson, a member of the Youth of Coventry. "Our original understanding of the curfew was that it was to be a summer thing because that’s when a lot of kids are going to be out and about. Now that it’s (well) into the school year, there’s no need for it. People are not out, they're inside or in the library doing work."
Others who were skeptical with city council’s plan have had a change of heart.
Grog Shop owner Kathy Blackman and said the 6 p.m. time was too early at a July meeting when the law was amended.
But in and congestion outside of her business near the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard and Coventry Road. She just wants kids to know that they can still come to her shows.
"(Police) haven’t really been bullying people, which I think is great … I’ve seen a slight decrease of attendance with my kids' shows," she said. "I want them to know they can come, and they won’t get hassled and they won’t get arrested."
Presser said as long as people feel safer, it’s successful.
“The feedback is that it’s great. It’s the old Coventry,” he said. “You have some other people who say, 'I really wish my kids could go and hang up there.' But the strong majority have been very positive about it.”