**FILE** Metropolitan Police Department vehicles (Courtesy photo)
**FILE** Metropolitan Police Department vehicles (Courtesy photo)

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Since the District’s pilot curfew program went into effect, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has dispatched officers to seven areas where young people have frequently engaged in violent activities at night.  

Tia Bell, a District resident committed to quelling violence through a public health approach, said MPD took one of her young people to the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services (DYRS) after an encounter near Georgia Avenue in Northwest on Sept. 1, the first night of the curfew.

The youth was returning home from a football game, Bell said. 

However, Bell contends that D.C. officials didn’t include her youth in initial reports about the curfew program in which they said no young people went to DYRS on the first night. 

A DYRS spokesperson said MPD didn’t take any young people to DYRS on the first night of the curfew pilot program. 

By the end of that weekend, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice reported that MPD picked up four young people and transferred them to DYRS. During the weekend of Sept 8-10, MPD transferred three youths to DYRS. One of those youths was released to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).

Despite a willingness to explore the curfew’s effectiveness, Bell said that the program places a target on the backs of young people and their parents. 

“My student’s traumatized and exposed to more harm and exposed to this system,” said Bell, founder and executive director of The T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Project.

“There are risks when you’re trying to arrest your way through violent crime,” Bell added. “When you think about the root causes of gun violence, youth have housing issues. So where can they be safe for curfew? I know we have to do something to stop the violence but we need to think long term.” 

Curfew Program Areas of Focus

Toward the latter part of August, the Bowser administration unveiled the curfew pilot as part of a multifaceted crime reduction strategy. Acting MPD Chief Pamela Smith said that young people caught outside during the nighttime hours would be taken to DYRS, not as detainees, but as people who could be connected with social services. 

Agencies participating in this program are Department of Behavioral Services, Child and Family Services Agency, and Department of Human Services. 

Areas of focus are Chinatown and Navy Yard; U Street corridor; Howard University and Banneker field; 14th Street between Otis Street and Spring Road in Northwest; 4000 block of Georgia Avenue in Northwest; 4400-4600 block of Benning Road in Southeast; and 1300 block of Congress Street in Southeast. 

Some People Express Frustration with District Parents 

The curfew program, aimed at youth under the age of 17, has intensified discussions about the role parents have played in the violence that has gripped the city in recent years. For some people, like Tammy Givens, parents who she said have shirked on their responsibilities to their children by letting them roam the streets. 

“Anything that’s out of hand with parents needs to be addressed and they need to be held accountable,” said Givens, a Northeast mother of a student who attends D.C. Public Schools. 

Givens, a mother of four, touted tough love and boundaries as an essential part of her children’s academic and professional success. She told the Informer that old-school values have been thrown to the wayside, much to the detriment of the greater community. 

“These are young children committing crimes,” Givens said. “People’s cars are getting stolen and they’re getting robbed. I guarantee if you hold parents accountable, all of this will stop. Tell them you’re not going to give them [benefits] and you’ll take them to jail. Parents have to do the footwork.” 

A Parent-Advocate Takes D.C. Government to Task

On Sept. 2, MPD reported a shooting in Southeast that killed Zyion Turner, a 15-year-old Southeast resident. Officials also arrested three people under the age of 18 for their alleged involvement in an automobile theft that took place in July. Another shooting in Northwest claimed the lives of Mikeya Ferguson, 19, and Cle’shai Perry, 18. 

The violence continued into Labor Day when MPD reported a homicide in Northeast that claimed the life of Marcus Thuman, a 29-year-old Northwest resident. 

Local attorney and mother Melody Webb called the violence gripping the District a manifestation of the government’s neglect of parents and children. 

Webb, CEO and executive director of antipoverty organization Mother’s Outreach Network, told The Informer that a curfew further mires families in what she described as a punitive system that doesn’t provide low-income parents the time, space and resources to spend time with their children and hold them accountable.  

Particular institutions that Webb implicated included the education system that she said doesn’t properly address the needs of special-needs students. Those students, Webb said, become truant out of frustration with lack of attention they get in academic settings. 

That’s why Webb pointed to the fulfillment of 504 plans and individual education programs, also known as of IEPs as the first place to start when addressing criminal activities committed by youth. She also said that youth need guaranteed jobs and income streams throughout the year. 

Any route that puts children in contact with law enforcement criminalizes them and their parents, Webb said. 

“It’s really treading on parental agency with parents being able to decide when and how children should spend their time,” Webb said. 

“Some parents are struggling with work and program requirements,” she added. “They lack child care and make the choice to leave children unsupervised. Parents who want extra help risk a CFSA investigation when they reach out regarding the problems children are experiencing.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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