The Philadelphia curfew experiment starts ... now

Philadelphia-flash-mob

So what are you doing tonight? If you're a 16-year-old living in Philadelphia, the answer might be: Staying indoors.

Tonight begins the test of the Philadelphia curfew implemented by Mayor Michael Nutter. The rules are simple: If you're under the age of 18, you need to be off the streets by 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights in troubled areas of the city.

The penalty for getting caught lingering out of doors is a cool $300 for teens, and parents can be fined up to $500 if their child gets caught twice.

The Friday and Saturday curfews were instituted to crack down on violent mobs of teenagers that have been plaguing the city over the past year -– a goal made more relevant to everyone by the recent unrest in England. Just like in England, the flash mobs in Philadelphia  have been facilitated by social media services such as Twitter and Facebook.

A few weeks ago, a flash-mob rampage by more than two dozen youths left one man hospitalized with a broken jaw. In June, a magazine editor was knocked down by a group of kids who punched her in the face and caused her to break her leg.

Implementing a curfew may seem like a drastic measure, but in fact, curfews already existed in the city. The previous weekend curfew for teens ages 13 to 17 was 10:30 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends. The mayor just tightened it a bit for the neighborhoods of Center City and University City, where young flash-mobs have thronged.

Will earlier curfews help? Well, we'll find out tonight. And you can bet that people in England will be watching to see if Nutter's tactics are effective. The BBC has already sent a reporter to the city to see what lessons Britain can learn from Philadelphia's curfew experiment.

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--Deborah Netburn

Image: Young people fill Philadelphia's South Street during a flash mob incident that involved thousands in March 2010.Credit: Laurence Kesterson/AP.

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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