'Do you know where your chldren are?'
“It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”
That phrase was the beginning of the televised nightly news for many years, and it reminded the viewers, especially parents, that children were not allowed on the streets at that hour.
This summer is the anniversary of that iconic phrase initiated by Mel Epstein of New York’s WNEW-TV. It was a anxious time the summer of 1967, with riots in many cities across the country causing cities to set curfews. It was a defining moment in the nation’s history, and an important public service announcement that reached far beyond New York and into homes for years for more than 52 years.
Local television stations in the Wabash Valley also posed the question, with many residents remembering the phrase broadcast nightly. The question has even been featured on “The Simpsons” and updated and co-opted to suit many different types of advertisements on social media.
The recent reports of three separate incidents of vandalism by juveniles at Forest Park has some residents wondering if it’s time for the world-famous question to make a new appearance.
While the Brazil Police Department are actively investigating the incidents, Assistant Police Chief Dennis Archer wants parents to remember Indiana Code sets a state curfew for juveniles.
“While the city had an ordinance about a curfew it just mirrored the state code,” said Archer. “Parents need to know that the state code has more teeth, and it is what we will enforce.”
Indiana Code 31-37-3-2 allows a law enforcement officer - after making a reasonable determination while considering the facts and circumstances surrounding a child out past curfew - to write a citation and/or detain a minor child without a legal guardian present who is:
• Age 15 or younger in a public place between 11 p.m.-5 a.m. on any day of the week,
• Age 16 or 17 in a public place during 11 p.m.-5 a.m. Sunday through Friday, and
• Age 16 or 17 in a public place between 1-5 a.m., Saturday or Sunday.
The code allows for a minor to be out past the state designated curfew if with a parent or guardian; or participating in, going to or returning from gainful employment; attending a school- or parental-sanctioned event; a religious, government or non-profit event; involved in an emergency situation or has been legally emancipated.
The City of Brazil also has an ordinance that defines the following as “PUBLIC PLACES,” including but not limited to streets, highways, roads, alleys or parking lots, transportation facilities, theaters, restaurants, shops, bowling alleys, schools and school grounds, museums, playgrounds, places of business and amusement, swimming pools, cemetery, community centers, YMCA, hospitals, office buildings, governmental buildings and property and any other areas that are open to or accessible to the public.
However, curfew times are not optional for parents with young children, who should be home at or before the established curfew starts.
Some parents are shocked to discover their child, who was supposed to be spending the night with a friend, was not where they should have been when located by officers. It’s even harder when both sets of parents have been scammed by juveniles as a way for both to be out all night without any supervision.
“It’s not a safe world out there,” said Archer, who admits teenage rebellion isn’t new. “Kids have been doing things like that for years, climbing out bedroom windows and such, but it’s a new era and parents really should take the time to verify the details and whereabouts of their children with other adults.”
There are cases when parents, for whatever reason, are not doing their due diligence and are not keeping track of where their underage children are. Without proper supervision some children find themselves in difficult situations and patterns of bad choices and behavior can take over due to that neglect, which leads to the possibility of court proceedings for the child and the family.
Officials said juveniles cited in violation of the state curfew law are referred to the Clay County
Prosecutor’s Office. The case is then forwarded to Juvenile Probation and Clay Circuit Court for what is called an “informal adjustment.” Juveniles may be placed on an informal type of probation for three months, ordered to serve 8-16 hours of community service and ordered to pay administrative costs set by the court.
“Each case is handled on an individual basis,” said Archer, but public safety for all residents is paramount.
Archer explained it’s at an officer’s discretion whether to write the citation for a curfew violation or ensure the child is safely returned home to parents or a legal guardian.
“We are not going to arrest a child for being out past curfew. They are not going to jail,” said Archer, who urges parents to discuss with their children that all parks are considered closed to the public during dusk to dawn, which is another potential violation. “However, we are going to ensure a child’s safe return home.”
Residents are urged to contact authorities (Clay County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Center at (812)446-2535 Ext. 5.) when they see a large group of juveniles out past curfew.
“Any strange activity like that should be checked out,” Archer said, and proffered some advice to parents. “The easiest way to handle curfew is to keep your children home, or, if a child is spending the night with a friend, make sure of the details with the other parents about where your child is supposed to be and who will be supervising them.”