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City Council to mull curfew again

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | DECEMBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM

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Dipping temperatures may be causing a dip in youth crime on the Southeast Side of Iowa City, but the Iowa City city councilors will still revisit the possibility of a juvenile curfew tonight.

This time around, councilors will be armed with more information — much of it coming from the community — though it’s unclear if and how that information might affect the councilors’ votes.

The council broached passing a youth curfew in September after a spring and summer containing instances of riots and youth gang activity.

The proposal passed its first consideration by the council, 4-3. But community leaders pleaded for the council to give them time to work in the community. Councilors agreed.

Since then, the Safe Neighborhoods Coalition has collected approximately 350 surveys from households in the area. Starting out as a small group, the coalition members now work with neighborhood associations, agencies, and businesses, and they hope to work further with the City Council.

Sue Freeman, the director of the Broadway Center and a coalition member, will present the information collected to the council tonight. She hopes to have the data from the surveys aggregated, she said, and she will discuss what the coalition has been doing within the community.

Youth activity has cooled since the August incidents — largely because of the colder weather and start of school, councilors and coalition members agreed at Monday’s work session. But authorities and community leaders said it is an ongoing cycle, and crime traditionally increases when the weather turns warmer.

In May, a series of confrontations in the Southeast Side, one involving 50 to 60 people, caught the attention of the police.

That altercation was later dubbed the “Mother’s Day Brawl,” and it was followed by three other smaller, but related, fights.

In August, an altercation between two gangs made up almost exclusively of juveniles resulted in a shooting, though no one was injured. Authorities said the people involved in the dispute were the same involved in the Mother’s Day Brawl, and they are confident they have disrupted the local gang beyond the point of being able to reconvene.

While some community members demanded action from the City Council, others insisted the allegations of riots were drastically exaggerated. The “riots” were fights between a relatively small number of youths, they said, with others crowding around to watch.

At Monday’s council work session, Freeman pointed out the worst crimes had been committed during daylight hours. All the fights surrounding Mother’s Day occurred before dark, and the October homicide at the Broadway Condominiums happened around 4 p.m.

Freeman said the coalition would continue to reflect on the data throughout the coming months and determine the best course of action.

“The key is pulling together adults and youth,” she said. “We want to come together with a cohesive plan.”

The second reading of the proposed ordinance will be at 7 p.m. The ordinance must pass three readings to take effect.


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