FORT MYERS, Fla.- Fort Myers city council members heard an update today on the city curfew for juveniles. They decided to keep the 9 p.m. weekday and 11 p.m. weekend curfew in place.
Police Chief Doug Baker presented information to council and the mayor showing a drop in the crime rate and juvenile arrests.
The numbers show violent crime decreased by 15% from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013. In that same time, juvenile arrests decreased 47%.
Chief Baker says while the curfew is not a "silver bullet," it is a contributing factor to the decrease in crime. "Is it helping our cause or is it helping the overall safety of our kids? The information I would have is it's definitely not hurting it. It's providing some level of safety and protection because we're seeing our juvenile arrests decrease and to me that's the most important thing."
He says it is one of the only laws that targets crime from the preventative side. Since officials put the curfew in place last year, officers have issued 138 warnings for a first offense, 32 citations for being out past 9 p.m. during the week, and 13 for kids under 18 being out past 11 p.m. on the weekend. Baker says, "I thought there would be more. I think realistically everybody thought there would be more."
Only 7 of those were because of the new curfew, meaning between the hours of 9-11 p.m. Though the numbers are small, Baker says they make a big impact. "How many of those interrupted a possible burglary, a possible robbery, a possible theft. These minor citations are going to interrupt more serious offenses."
Before the meeting, the mayor said he would like to see the curfew revised, to place less restriction on kids. But by the end of the meeting, he had a change of heart. "To the extent we can reasonably soften rules and regulations from time to time, it's a worthy thing to consider. But not at the expense of our safety and our quality of life."
The mayor says, "I think it is a success, it's fair to say, as I mentioned in the workshop, it's painfully little information but it is information and it's trending in a positive way so I think it's something we can reasonably adopt as meaningful and positive and making a contribution, small though it is."
Council members all agreed keeping the curfew in place is the right thing to do right now. The police department will continue to track the data, and present an update to council at the beginning of next year.
Both the mayor and police chief said they have not received complaints from the community about the new law. There are exceptions if kids are working, or attending a school or church function.