published Monday, May 16th, 2011

Night options dwindle

By Tyler Blackmon/Valley Voices
Lucy Zapata, left, and Emma Reese, right, play in the fountains at Coolidge Park. They were at the park with their high school AP English class. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Lucy Zapata, left, and Emma Reese, right, play in the fountains at Coolidge Park. They were at the park with their high school AP English class. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press

When Jessica Wood, a 17-year-old from Baylor School, was walking with her friends at Hamilton Place mall on a Friday night, a mall cop spotted her and immediately came to escort her out of the building.

Like so many teenagers in the area, Wood had unwittingly broken one of the several unaccompanied-minor restrictions across Chattanooga.

Since March 2001, security officers at Hamilton Place mall have barred anyone under 18 from shopping unaccompanied past 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Since then, many Chattanooga-area facilities have followed suit in prohibiting unaccompanied minors from using their premises as a way to curb suspicious activity.

On March 29, the Chattanooga City Council passed Ordinance 12493, making it unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to use Coolidge Park between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. without adult supervision.

Police Chief Bobby Dodd asked the council to consider the measure after the March 19 shootings at Coolidge Park that involved a mass meeting of youths and was reportedly connected to gang activities.

Chattanooga City Council Chairman Manuel Rico, of District 7, said, “There was a lot going on with the older guys [related to gang activity], so we just wanted to protect the younger guys from being involved with this stuff.”

Nevertheless, said Rico, “Most folks won’t be bothered. In the police force, they have something called commonsense profiling. So they won’t check everyone.”

Rave Motion Pictures, once a popular teenage destination on Friday nights, also now bans any person under 18 from entering a movie that starts after 8 p.m. without supervision by someone 25 or older.

“I don’t understand the difference between teenagers going during the day and going at night. A rebellious kid is going to do the same things no matter when he goes to the movies,” said Tyler Blevins, 16, a Dade County High School student.

Parents, however, see promise in certain curfew laws.

“Until the problems at Coolidge are controlled, I don’t think teenagers need to be there after dark,” said Elena Haskew, a Chattanooga-area mother of three. “Nothing good happens that late at night.”

Jessica, of Baylor, said teens can’t help but feel left out of the conversation as adult policymakers hand down restrictions.

“They assume if you are not a legal adult you are a threat [and] if you are an adult you are not a problem,” she said.

Tyler Blackmon is a student at Baylor School.

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cnjamcat said...

Not all parents support institutional curfews. I'm a parent and I'm outraged by this trend. Criminalizing being young in a public place is an abominable, cowardly act by our government. It's age discrimination and it is just as wrong as punishing people for their sex or race. Businesses and governments are happy to take money and taxes from young adults but treat them like second-class citizens. It's morally indefensible.

May 16, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.
xsiveporsche said...

The problem with these policies is it gives the youth nowhere to go. These policies stem from people without kids or forgetting about there own youth. I remember cruising when younger. Going to the movies and drive-ins. The youth has no where to go and nothing to do. Our parents told us Rock-n-roll was just noise and not music. We told our kids Rap is not music. I do not like loud, unrulely kids around either but I also understand the problem. Lets get the kids an ID card. Maybe issued at school and the first time they become a problem then they are banned from these places. We are wrong banning the kids from all these places. The mall is wrong. They need to think that these kids are future shoppers at their mall. Do they think these kids will forget? Places that have given me bad sevice or employees dont seem to care about helping you do not get my business again. Kids do not forget where they are treated poorly. My daughter was treated badly at 16 in a store at the mall and 14 years later she has still not been back to that store. Lets take care of our youth instead of taking away any place they can go. take these places away then they hang as a group and that is the start of a gang.

January 31, 2012 at 8:12 a.m.
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