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YMCA Lends Helping Hand With New Curfew

The Columbus curfew has been on the books for 30 years, but now Mayor Coleman wants to enforce it. To do so will cost the city about $75,000.

The new law requires kids under the age of 13 to be off the streets one hour after sunset and kids 13-17 inside by midnight. Kids breaking curfew will be taken to the YMCA's central branch on Long Street until their parents can pick them up. Police commander Jeffrey Blackwell says teenagers create a significant problem when they are out on the streets unsupervised, but the old law did not give officers a place to take trespassers. The partnership with the YMCA, creates what the commander calls a "win-win" situation for the police, city and parents.

"Its been very problematic in the past to deal with these kids once we take them off the street and it take our officers sometimes hours on end to figure out what to do with these kids so this will help us tremendously."

Police can bring curfew breakers to the "Y" from June to August. City council's Safety Initiative Fund will help pay the $75,000 cost which includes extra staffing for the YMCA. YMCA president John Bickley says he views the summer curfew as an extension of the day-time suspension truancy program the "Y" already runs. He says kids who come in for violating curfew will be kept in classrooms, which can hold between 20 and 30 kids at a time, until their parents retrieve them. But if the kids are still there in the morning, children's services will get involved.

"If they come down here after 11 or 12 o'clock at night we are going to have cots and staff and make sure their needs are taken care of and then we are going to put them to bed. And in the morning if they are not picked up by their parents then we are working with children's services and they will be transported by children's services."

Bickley says the YMCA is developing programs to teach parents and children about what their obligations are related to curfew. Police say the downtown YMCA has been running truancy programs for 10 years with minimal problems. However, this new program does raise some safety concerns for the YMCA. Commander Jeffrey Blackwell says officers will be in and out of the building frequently. He says they are considering stationing a couple of officers inside the building to try to prevent problems.