Leader Blues

Friday, October 17, 2008

TOP STORY > >Council agrees on youth curfew

Leader staff writer

Juvenile arrests have been going up about 10 to 15 percent a year, according to Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes, and a large number of those arrests are happening during the day.

That caused the Jacksonville Police Department to ask for a daytime curfew which the city council unanimously approved Thursday night.

Sipes said in 2006 the police made 421 juvenile arrests, in 2007 that number jumped to 474, and for this year the police are on a pace to make more than 500 juvenile arrests.

The police chief said many of the juveniles arrested were involved in daytime burglaries. “We are trying to get the parents to take responsibility,” he explained in defense of the new ordinance.

Alderman Terry Sansing ex-plained that the city approved a nighttime curfew for juveniles 17 years ago. “We were having problems with juveniles committing crimes late night. Once the ordinance went into effect and police started to make curfew arrests, we found that many of the juveniles that were in Jacksonville late at night weren’t from Jacksonville. We are now having a juvenile crime problem during the day and that’s why this ordinance came up.”

The chief said the first time a juvenile is caught out on the street during school hours without a valid reason, the youngster will receive a warning and parents will be notified. The second time the juvenile will receive a citation and the parents will be notified. The third offense, the parents will be cited.

The ordinance states the daytime curfew is needed because “recent arrests and criminal activity have increased, and the police department has noticed an unusual and unacceptable number of school age youth involvement in various criminal activity through these incidents.”

The ordinance makes it illegal for any person under the age of 18 to “be or remain in or upon the streets, public parks, playgrounds, vacant lots, or to ride and/or drive in or upon, over, or through the public streets and/or public parks within the city” while school is in session.

Before voting, Aldermen Avis Twitty wanted to make sure there was a provision for youngsters who were just 17, but had already graduated from high school.

Twitty was assured that the ordinance contains that provision. Also youngsters that are at work or with parents during school hours are also exempt.

City Administrator Jay Whisk-er said the focus of the ordinance is on those youngsters who have been expelled or suspended from school. “If a student is not at school, we want them at home,” he said.

Enforcement of the ordinance will start Nov. 1.

In other council business:

Police Chief Gary Sipes, in his monthly report, said his department responded to 2,895 complaint calls during September.

Police opened 204 felony cases, while closing 103, made 350 arrests, and served 262 warrants during the month.

In September, more than $119,695 worth of items were reported stolen, but the police recovered $276,695 worth of items.

In his report to the council, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 101 rescue calls, 60 still alarms, 14 general alarms and had 212 ambulance runs during September.

Fire loss for the month was estimated at $8,800, while fire savings, based on insurance estimates from the departments quick response and efforts, was placed at $94,200.

Public Works Director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter took in 136 dogs and 93 cats during September. No cats were returned to owners, but 32 dogs were. Shelter officials were able to adopt out 19 cats and 48 dogs, while 63 cats and 63 dogs were euthanized.

Four bite cases were reported to the shelter. A stray boxer mix attacked a Rottweiler, while a stray cat bit a woman. Both the stray dog and cat were euthanized. A Yorkie mix bit his owner as the owner tried to put the dog in bed, and a German shepherd bit another dog on Lenora Street.

In his monthly report, City Planner Chip McCully said the engineering and code enforcement departments issued 12 building permits and nine business licenses during September.