In the wake of a violent outbreak in downtown Louisville led by a group of teenagers, Mayor Greg Fischer is looking for “legal avenues” to hold the parents of delinquent children accountable.
That’s according to a letter obtained by WFPL, which Fischer is set to release to citizens sometime this weekend.
Since the March 22 incident, the mayor’s office has been trying to get ahead of the issue as residents from across the city debate on how to best deal with Louisville’s teen community.
Many public commentators have been urging for a crackdown on parents as much as spending public funds on teen programs.
In a letter dated this coming Monday, Fischer says that the parents of the children involved must also be held accountable.
He adds the city is examining ways to enhance the city’s curfew law, which currently makes it unlawful for anyone under age 18 to be out after 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.
“We recognize the central role that parents and families play in preventing delinquency and supervising their children,” says Fischer. “We are exploring methods to hold parents/guardians accountable through legal avenues and are seeking creative ways to enhance parental involvement and responsibility. We will evaluate other measures that may be effective, including enhancements to the city’s curfew law.”
The city has already announced a handful of security measures.
There will be an increased police presence at Waterfront Park and an installation of two dozen security cameras in the area is taking place. Criticized for a lack of proper statistics, Metro Police have also improved their crime map of downtown to better reflect incidents.
Fischer’s office scrambled to stay ahead of the issue as public outrage ballooned, holding meetings with community leaders and public forums with teenagers. As WFPL’s Jacob Ryan has reported, some Louisville youth aren’t impressed with the mayor’s efforts thus far.
But this latest move represents an intent on the city’s party to involve the parents of delinquent children as much as the offending teens. It’s unclear if these ideas will be more punitive or supportive, however.
“One of the things we have to wrap our head around is that for a lot of kids they are not growing up with June and Ward Cleaver at the table,” says Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks. “In this state we know that twice as many kids in Louisville live in kinship care, where a child will be living not with a parent, but with other family members such as a grandparent.”
A child well-being index released by Kentucky Youth Advocates in December 2013 shows Louisville Metro ranks on the bottom when compared to the other 119 counties in the state.
Among the report’s more glaring findings were that 18 percent of Louisville children are born to mother without a high school diploma and that 24 percent of children are living in poverty.
In his letter, Fischer acknowledges that imprisonment and other “one-size fits all” approaches aren’t the best pathway. He says there is a need for alternative methods such as restorative justice for non-violent youth and investing in teenagers.
“In fact, research indicates that locking up nonviolent youth for long periods may only turn them into future adult criminals,” he says. “We do know that investing in our youth leads to more resilient and productive adults.”
Fischer outlines the work being done by the Safe Neighborhoods director and encourages residents to sponsor a young person for the Summer Jobs program. He also urges for people to volunteer at community center and join mentoring initiatives that target 16-19 year olds.
Brooks says Fischer has handled the situation as best as possible in the immediate aftermath, but that whatever the mayor is proposing it has to affirm children and recognize their changing family structures.
“It’s not just about cracking down on parents, but lifting up anybody who is responsible for kids,” he says. “It’s about not just being punitive, but partnering with those grandparents and guardians, and finding out what they need to be helped.”