By: Victoria Hampstead
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)-Chattanooga City Council met on March 29th to discuss curfew restrictions for youth in Coolidge Park, where other concerns quickly came into discussion.
In an ordinance proposed by Councilman Benson, restrictions would be placed on minors stating they could not be at Coolidge Park between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult. The issue in question was if this ordinance should be passed or if it is narrowly tailored enough for the community versus being overly broad.
Councilman McGary did not agree with the legislation being passed and suggested that this legislation was in direct response to a shooting that took place on March 19th in the park. Councilmen Gilbert agreed pointing out that in addition to the legislation being, in his opinion, a very obvious result of the shooting, he would also not support it because there were so many other areas having the same issues but nothing was being done there.
In contrast, Mayor Ron Littlefield supported the legislation and said of needing improvements, that “ handling of young people who are picked up as a result of curfews and truancy issues” is needed. Then he spoke of an alternative for minors, the South Recreation Center on 40th Street.
The ordinance was passed with only two of the nine votes being “no” and the recreation center will now be used as an alternative holding place for those who violate the curfew.
This Recreation Center, according to the Times Free Press, will provide a place for children ages 13-17 to be detained while they wait on their parents to pick them up. According to Regional YMCA director Joe Smith ,“This is not designed to be punitive. What it’s designed to do is to uncover needs, and of course to protect that child and protect the other citizens in the park.” In addition, children 12 and under will be taken to Child Services and could be charged with neglect.
Some hope these restrictions will serve as an opportunity of prevention to further issues and believe the option of a recreation center to take kids to rather than charging them giving them more serious consequences will help regulate some of the curfew issues that have been present over the year.
To find more information on the South Chattanooga Recreation Center visit their website.