Those of you who don’t live in or near the Kansas City area but perhaps have a news fetish for the goings-on in other parts of the country/world may be aware that our fair town is experiencing some “issues” of late. We seem to have a problem with the young’uns.
You see, the Country Club Plaza, the city’s premiere shopping district, has been the locale of choice for large groups of teenagers on the weekends. We’ve had a handful of incidents where one of those trendy flash mobs broke out and caused no small amount of grief to other shoppers, business owners, security, and police. Things got a bit crazier this past weekend when somebody decided to fire a gun. Three teens were injured (none fatally, thank goodness), and naturally folks in the area were a little upset. Our mayor, who was actually on site to see for himself what all the fuss was about in the wake of past incidents, was perhaps fifty yards from where the shots were fired. His bodyguards (two officers from the KCPD) tossed him to the ground and drew their weapons, fearing for his safety. As of today, folks are up in arms about the incident, and calls for a curfew — the Plaza itself, if not the entire city — abound.
Check out what some folks have had to say, as relayed via KansasCity.com, aka the website for the The Kansas City Star:
Kansas City working on new curfew
Plaza mayhem prompts call for change
KC mayor, bodyguards reject excuses for Plaza shooting
Mayer sends letter: New curfew possible
There’s already a city-wide curfew for unaccompanied minors supposedly in effect: 11pm during the week and midnight on weekends, with exceptions for those traveling to/from work. This new version would drop it to 9pm every night.
At first blush, this seems like a good idea. I don’t know that it needs to be a blanket thing, but some kind of graduated scale based on age might not be a bad idea. A 16-year old doesn’t need to be hassled on their way to or from their job at the movie theater or McDonald’s, after all. On the other hand, a 12 or 13-year old kid has no business being out and about, unsupervised, at midnight on a Saturday night. I also don’t think it should only be for certain parts of town. All that will do is send the shenanigans to some other location.
Then again, there’s conflicting information as to the effectiveness of such curfews as they work in other cities. Enforcing such laws would seem to place an additional strain on already stressed police departments. I’ve read some material by “anti-curfew” groups wondering why parents can’t be trusted to lay down and enforce such restrictions themselves, without the need for additional laws and cops to back them up.
Well, if it was that simple, we wouldn’t be talking about this shit, would we?
Some people are saying that the city needs to be better at providing “things to do” for these wayward youths, so as to discourage such unruly behavior. Personally, I think that’s horseshit, at least to a degree. The city (and, by extension, the city’s police force) isn’t a babysitting service, and neither are the business owners at the Plaza, or the malls, or the theaters, or wherever else kids hang out. You want to be out in public? Don’t act like an idiot.
(This advice goes for adults, too, but that’s a topic for a different day.)
Anyway, I’m not convinced that an outright curfew is really part of a solution. There are plenty of good kids out there, who just want to hang with their friends, go to the movies or eat or whatever, and don’t hassle people while they do it. They shouldn’t be punished just because they’re of a certain age. But hey, if the cops have to haul your underage ass to the station or back to your house because you were bored and looking for something to do, so you decided to start some shit at the mall? Here’s something you can do: community service — mowing grass or clearing brush in the city-maintained areas, or picking up trash, or painting buildings, or whatever. Somewhere in this town is a very long list of very unglamorous yet necessary jobs that need doing, but for which the budget is either too small or nonexistent. Surely these dots can be connected by someone with the proper administrative savvy over at City Hall, right?
What else? Oh, yeah! The parents. I agree with Mayor James, in that a big part of this problem starts right there at home. So, with that in mind, I say to parents: Hey, dumbasses! DO YOUR JOB! You bred ’em, so their antics are on you. That doesn’t translate to you dumping them off at the mall or the Plaza or wherever while you head on over to the Power & Light to get in on the 2-for-1 draw action, or to one of the casinos, or back to your place to bone your neighbors during the apartment complex’s swingers party. Stop making the rest of us look bad. That, or allow those of us who take our parenting duties seriously the option of lining up to smack you in the genitals with a baseball bat.
On the other hand, I have no doubt that there are some parents out there who are well-meaning people, but they’re in a tight spot or just overwhelmed and could use a break. Maybe they’re working overnight and/or double shifts just to make ends meet, and they get snookered by their crafty spawn. They might not deserve to be tarred and feathered, and it’d be nice if there were always mechanisms in place via schools, churches, community centers, the YMCA, or whatever which could offer to kids some alternative to simply wandering around and into trouble. It’s not an easy problem to fix, I’ll grant you, but there are enough good parents out there facing this sort of challenge who find a way to make it work, because they know it’s what they’re supposed to be doing. No reality TV show for these folks, or some other flavor of fleeting fame designed to celebrate the dysfunctional or self-absorbed or just plain narcissistic among us. Nope, all they get are the simple rewards to be savored from having raised a good kid.
Yeah, I know: How boring.
Some idiots are clamoring for the parents to face jail time if their kids violate the curfew. Um…how does that solve the problem of unmonitored minors? Better idea: Fine the parent(s) of teens who get arrested for breaking a real law. If it’s a misdemeanor or even if no formal charges are filed, fine them just because a cop had to haul their kids to the station and wait for a parent to come get them. That money can then be pumped into funding the aforementioned community service programs, and some of these ideas to give kids “alternatives” to acting like morons in public venues. If the parent(s) can’t pay the fines, then put their asses to work right next to their community-serving offspring. Consider it city-sponsored family time.
I wonder how many parents are thinking that a bat to the junk’s sounding pretty good right now.