A minor dilemma

Goshen hopes to head off a growing youth problem at First Fridays

Posted on March 20, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Between a safe downtown and a popular monthly event, First Fridays have a growing youth problem that they’re trying to head off with the city council’s help tonight.

“Fridays continue to thrive with some good volunteers. We do have a challenge with our middle-school youth down there, so Gina Leichty and the police department are addressing that,” said Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman.

“The city council will have two ordinances (to)night that are proposed to help that, so I’m hoping that the city council passes those,” Kauffman said.

Leichty, the event’s coordinator, said, “First Fridays are a great place for families to visit and it’s a great event for adults. It is not an acceptable place for unsupervised minors. This is a great family event and community event, but it is not a place to dump your unsupervised middle-school student for the evening. They just don’t have the self direction to behave appropriately,” Leichty said.

That’s why the Goshen City Council tonight will consider tightening its long-standing curfew on Fridays and to prohibit loitering that blocks sidewalks.

The proposal is to put a 9 p.m. curfew for any child younger than 15 in the downtown area on First Fridays.

That’s two hours earlier than the existing curfew, which mirrors state law. Just like the existing ordinance and state law, youths with their parents, or heading to or from work, a school activity or a religious activity are exempted.

The other proposal is a blanket ordinance that would prohibit any person or group from blocking a public sidewalk without permission from the city’s board of public works and safety.

“When you have hundreds of kids that are gathered downtown, they’re inevitably going to engage in behavior that’s inappropriate,” Leichty said.

The issue seemed worse the last couple of months, too, because of the weather, she said. “It was more evident because grownups aren’t going to hang out outside. They’re at the Spring, or Venturi, or inside. We had some events at the theater, the theater both months was packed with grown-ups, but they weren’t walking on the street.”

Requesting the curfew and sidewalk-blocking ordinances aren’t the only efforts taken by First Fridays organizers, though.

Last year they started planning teen zone events, and in the winter moved into the ballroom at the old Goshen Theater. “We’re at capacity,” Leichty said.

The Boys & Girls Club agreed to stay open until 10 p.m. for all youths on First Fridays.

“There is an alternative location if parents want to drop their kids off on Friday night,” Leichty said.

First Fridays went from paying overtime for two police officers to 13, now, Leichty said. Still, “the police are going to be very reasonable. They’re going to ask kids to move,” she said. “You don’t get a speeding ticket every time you speed, but they will be enforcing.”

It’s not the first time the city’s worked to curb youth problems. The council passed the current curfew six years ago, and the year after it went into effect the police department focused on late-night enforcement of quality-of-life issues, including curfew violations.

Leichty said if the council passes the ordinances tonight, “These things will really help.”


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