Rideout: Curfew is ineffective, poor use of money

Steve Rideout

CAMBRIDGE – City Commissioner Steve Rideout (Ward 1) released a statement Monday morning regarding youth and the disruptions occurring in the city. Residents have been disturbed over the previous week by loud fireworks being set off until the early hours of the morning.

Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services crews have been insulted and assaulted when responding to the troubled areas. At a meeting of the Cambridge City Council on Friday, the mayor and commissioners began discussing the imposition of a curfew on individuals younger than 18 years, in an effort to bring the situation under control.

The city government has been collecting citizens’ views on the matter and will meet again to determine their actions, if any, on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Mr. Rideout’s full statement appears below:

Dear Readers,

Cat Beise has interviewed me about my earlier article on Juvenile Justice that I sent to you where I talk about how we need to be spending our money more wisely to address challenges that all of our youth are facing. It will be on WHCP radio starting today either on the radio at 101.5 fm locally or streaming at www.whcp.org  on the MidShore MidDay program that starts at noon. It is not the complete interview with another portion coming soon.

What City Council will be discussing on Tuesday evening at 5:00 p.m. at a meeting about a possible curfew for juveniles that can be seen at www.townhallstrems.com is an example of how we are not planning to use our money wisely. For years I have advocated here for programs for youth during the summer and for summer jobs for our teens. I have not been successful in achieving my goal but am delighted to see that thanks to the J2W Foundation there will be some summer programs and camps at the Empowerment Center this summer and there have been some reading support programs for some students because of school closing due to the Covid-19 virus.

What is being considered tomorrow evening, if successful, will be spending money both inefficiently and ineffectively after the fact. It will be inefficient because the police, social service workers, and other manpower will be misused to make it work within the proper requirements of the law. Their time will be misspent on a curfew issue and where and how to identify parents willing to take their child home or placing the child at a center that will cost the city money. All of that will pull our limited number of police officers away from what we need them for, protecting the community, and paying for a shelter placement for those children not able to go home.

In addition, my experience in the juvenile justice system as a lawyer representing youth for 20 years and as a juvenile court judge for 15 years is that the system, no matter where it is located, is not efficient due to the reasonable efforts to provide services and keep youth, to the extent possible, out of the system. That means that most of the cases started because of a curfew violation will never come to court; or if they do, they will take months to process and use resources that are needed for other cases involving children with more significant issues and challenges. Ultimately, what might be accomplished could be accomplished by existing programs that are known to work to which a child could be referred or a mentorship program to help students in their school setting.

I hope to explain all of my reasons for opposing any proposed curfew at our meeting on Tuesday evening, but understand  that if any curfew ordinance is passed, the city will be spending money unwisely, after the fact, and in an unproductive way that will support the belief that we are picking on one segment of our community that is not the major cause of the problems that we face here.

If we are to spend money, we need to do it to try to prevent these problems from arising in the first place and intervening in the lives of children in ways that will give them hope and a belief that they can be successful and that everyone is not against them.