Roy Exum: Curfew Plan Well Underway

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When I wrote about the wonderful daytime curfew laws in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday, I was unaware of two timely topics. I didn’t know that around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday a pregnant 16-year-old had been shot on East 25th Street in Chattanooga. I also didn’t know that Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw has been working tirelessly on a similar curfew plan in the 109 days he has served on the bench.

Judge Philyaw and his court director, Rachel Brock, have already drafted a proposal in hopes of having both a day and night curfew installed by our city’s leaders that would protect any minor under the age of 18. The proposed curfew hours would be from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days and from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays the night curfew would begin at 11:59 p.m.

“Since the first day I took office I have been telling everybody who would listen that we have to get our kids off the streets when they are not supposed to be out. I see too many horror stories of the effects of roaming kids in Chattanooga,” Judge Philyaw wrote in an email. “I have spent a lot of brain-trust power completely reviewing the way curfew and truancy issues are handled in Hamilton County.”

So what the judge and his staff have done is studied curfew programs all across the South to come up with the best parts of each program that they will present to City Hall in the near future. “This is a wonderful way to keep kids out of trouble,” he said in a telephone conversation later on Wednesday.

“The biggest hurdle is where we are going to take these minors until a parent or guardian comes to pick them up. It didn’t take me long to figure out we have a great facility in the Juvenile Court building. We don’t want to put these kids in jail. That’s not what this is about. We want to keep them safe.”

Judge Philyaw recently met with a group of police officers and, when he asked what they do when they see two 12-year-olds on the street at 2 a.m., he wasn’t surprised when the candid reply was, “We look the other way. “I see the problem,” the judge said, “You can’t put them in jail and the police certainly don’t have access to a holding area.”

So the proposal will include staffing the Juvenile Court building. “Actually you have three main parts – the police, the parents, and where to keep a child until they can be picked up by their family. The police see what is happening,” the judge said, “and I believe they are eager to keep minors out of trouble.”

Right now there is a case in Juvenile Court where three kids, all under the age of 16, have been charged with attempted first-degree murder. Another case involves two 13-year-olds who – on orders from a gang - robbed a couple at gunpoint and then stole their victims’ car. “A curfew might stop this from happening,” he said.

“I am more serious about this issue – getting kids off the streets – than anything else I am doing. Curfews are working in places like Jackson, Tn., Nashville and Mobile. The state of Tennessee has a Compulsory Attendance Law which is sometimes hard to enforce. A curfew violation is much easier and a citation to appear in Juvenile Court would be issued to the juvenile and/or the parent.

“What we have learned is once a city or town adopts the ordinance, it doesn’t take very long before adults and children alike realize we mean business. When a parent is fined, they’ll pay more attention to what their children are doing and where they are,” the judge reasoned.

“Mayor (Andy) Berke is working hard to make public safety a priority. I feel the curfews will be a great benefit and will make a noticeable difference in the amount of kids we see in the courtroom. Our schools are the safest place for children and, when they learn they better not get caught, I think our attendance numbers could easily improve. If the 16-year-old shooting victim had been in school this week, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

Judge Philyaw, who was selected by the County Commission when Suzanne Bailey retired from the bench, said “nothing was broken” when he took the bench. “Suzanne did a tremendous job so now we can look at ways to get better because there is nothing that needs to be fixed. A curfew plan was already high on the list and (school superintendent) Rick Smith and I already have a meeting set up to talk about truancy.”

Is this great news in a city where a 16-year-old got shot on Tuesday or what?

Poverty And Education

Many Americans believe that the major problem within public education is the lack of focus within the administration of a school. They even go so far as to blame the teachers for not providing the adequate time and skills needed for their child to grow and learn on a day-to-day basis. This type of mentality is wrong. As much as we can over analyze the various policies and red tape ... (click for more)

Alabama Parks Face An Uncertain Future, For Now All Parks Are Open To Enjoy

In the wake of the announcement to close five state parks and cut services and hours at other parks around the state, there have been many questions asked about the future of our state parks and what citizens can do to help. The best way to support the parks is to get out and visit them.  All of Alabama’s state parks are still open to guests and we hope citizens will get out ... (click for more)

Father Killed By Train Just After Pushing Daugter To Safety In East Brainerd

A 31-year-old man was killed just after he pushed his 10-year-old daughter to safety in an encounter with a train on a trestle in East Brainerd on Thursday afternoon. Police said two pedestrians were walking on the train tracks on a trestle at Audubon Acres when a train came around a bend and struck one of them. Justin McCary was struck by the train as he pushed ... (click for more)

Debate Blocked On Bill That Includes Funding To Restart Work On Chickamauga Lock

A bill by Senator Lamar Alexander that includes funding to restart Chickamauga Lock was halted on Thursday. Setting what Senator Alexander called a "dangerous precedent" for the Senate, he said Senate Democrats blocked deba te on th e bipartisan Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. Senator Alexander said on the floor, “You don't start the process at the ... (click for more)

Biro, Matthews Power Ooltewah To District 5-3A Volleyball Title

(Story has been updated with start time for Monday's Region 3-3A matches) CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Ooltewah grabbed the momentum. Unexpectedly lost it and then magically regained it at exactly the right time Wednesday in the District 5-3A volleyball tournament at Cleveland Middle School. Senior Alex Biro, named to the all-tournament team and most valuable player after the match, ... (click for more)

Vols Go Back To Basics In Hopes Of Slowing Bulldogs

  With Saturday's SEC showdown against Georgia now just three days away, Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones   and a select group of players spoke to the media early Wednesday afternoon: (Opening Statement) "To kind of give you an injury update on Wednesday, and a lot of this obviously will change by Saturday, but Stephen Griffin   did practice. ... (click for more)