There were three fights that began after a football game and spilled over to the Town Green last weekend, and police ended up picking up around 20 teens.
This incident, as well as other similar reports recently, led Rome Police Chief Denise Downer-McKinney to ask City Commissioners to consider changes to the curfew ordinance.
Officers need to be able to decide when a warning is appropriate, or if other action should be taken, she said.
Currently, the ordinance mandates that police give a warning the first time a teen or minor violates the 11 p.m. curfew. During the board’s retreat on Wednesday, the police chief spoke of large groups of teens cursing and getting rowdy on the weekends.
Downer-McKinney also pointed out that the issues, and the ordinance, aren’t limited to the downtown area.
Once youths are told to leave one area they often congregate elsewhere, City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson said. She noted that large groups are causing problems in the parking lots of Applebee’s and Steak and Shake on Turner McCall Boulevard.
That’s one reason why police have started documenting the verbal warnings they give.
The city adopted a curfew for minors in 2018. After an early enforcement push, most incidents had died down — until recently, Downer-McKinney said.
“The Rome Police Department has received a large number of complaints over the past several weeks of juveniles violating this ordinance, particularly on Broad Street and near the Town Green,” read a public service announcement released last week.
The ordinance states that people under the age of 17 cannot be out unsupervised from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Police also warned that people causing fights, cussing or using obscene gestures can be arrested on a disorderly conduct charge.
At least one business has taken issues into their own hands and hired an off duty police officer to enforce the curfew.
Jefferson’s on Broad Street has enacted its own curfew for teenagers after several incidents, City Manager Sammy Rich told commissioners.
“We’ve got at least one business pleading for us to help,” Rich said.
The discussion centered on what measures the city and police force, which is currently down 16 officers, could take.
“You can’t hold a child accountable for being a child,” Commissioner Craig McDaniel said. “You’ve got to hold parents accountable.”
Most of the commissioners appeared to agree with that sentiment.
Officers reported they’ve overheard parents asking their children why they didn’t run from police when approached, Downer-McKinney told commissioners. There also have been reports of parents dropping off children, some as young as 10 years old, downtown.
“We’ve already contacted Juvenile Court and they can hold the parents accountable,” Downer-McKinney said.
In order to change to the ordinance, it first will be presented to the city’s public safety committee before going beore the full city commission.