CHICAGO - At a town hall meeting focusing on public safety on Southwest Side on Monday Mayor Lori Lightfoot stressed the need for parental accountability when it comes to young people staying off the streets late at night and adhering to the city’s curfew.
"There is a curfew, we do enforce it but we need parents and guardians to also step up," she told an audience of several dozen community members gathered in the gymnasium of Richard J. Daley College.
"For example, last summer we had some challenges downtown at Millennium Park, and what we found out as we started to deconstruct what happened is a lot of parents were dropping off 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, downtown, by themselves, maybe in small groups, at night, and, frankly, hoping for the best. That can’t happen. We have to take responsibility for our children as well," she said.
"I say this as the parent of a 14-year-old, we have to make sure that we know where our kids are, that we are telling them right from wrong at the earliest possible age," said Lightfoot.
She spoke after Police Supt. David Brown told audience members that police officers sometimes "fill the void when young people are out past curfew and there’s not a parent around."
Brown pointed to a number of community programs that see officers interact with kids by playing sports and through other games and said he hoped such interactions would help kids "see past the badge and the gun" and view police as "regular adults trying to help them."
"The superintendent is right," Lightfoot said. "The Police Department is called upon to do a range of different things, but folks, there’s no replacement for that parental love and support and accountability. So I don’t want people to think [the] Police Department is going to solve all our problems, particularly when it comes to young people. No, no, no, no, no."
According to the city’s website, children under the age of 17 must be at home or accompanied by a parent or guardian 18 years or older after 10 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and no later than 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Jason Huff, 37, said he attended the meeting to bring attention to the problem of drag racers and other reckless drivers gathering in the parking lot of Ford City Mall, which is within earshot of his home.
"They do doughnuts. Screech wheels. It’s all through the night and when you call the police response is delayed or police are doing these positive community interactions instead, which is insane," said Huff.
He was referring to Brown’s campaign to have police officers log 1.5 million "positive community interactions" this year — a goal that’s been criticized as unnecessary and even problematic quota.
Lightfoot and Brown interacted with attendees for about 30 minutes before taking a stage with other city department heads to answer public safety questions.
Another Southwest Side resident, a 66-year-old woman who asked to be identified as Sharon, told Lightfoot that a shooting on her block in the Ashburn neighborhood in Chicago left her neighbor with several random bullet holes in her window.
"There’s no police on our block. We need police to patrol our block," she said, noting that she believed Brown and Lightfoot took her complaint to heart.