Hartford police will detain anyone younger than 18 who violates the city's curfew in the next month in response to recent violence, including a weekend shooting that killed a man and wounded six young people, city officials said Monday.
"We must do this because we cannot and will not tolerate innocent people, especially children, to be victims," Mayor Eddie Perez said.
Saturday's shooting in Hartford erupted after the annual West Indian Day parade in the city's North End. Police said 21-year-old Ezekiel Roberts of Hartford was killed, a 7-year-old boy was shot in the head and 15-month-old Zinia Jackson was shot in the left leg. Four teens were shot.
No arrests had been made Monday. Police were looking for suspects and asking for the public's help.
Roberts was affiliated with local gangs and was the intended target of the shooting, police told The Hartford Courant.
He had been found guilty in March of accessory to first-degree assault in the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old boy in 2006. Roberts was released on probation but charged in June with possession of marijuana and with probation violation in August.
Perez and Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts announced new public safety measures on Monday, including a beefed-up curfew for 30 days beginning Thursday. No one under 18 will be allowed on the streets after 9 p.m. without a parent or guardian, and violators will be taken to a community center where they will be kept until their parents or guardians pick them up.
Hartford's regular curfew allows police to issue citations to anyone younger than 18 on the streets after 9 p.m., according to the city's Web site. Many U.S. cities have permanent curfews, but they often are less restrictive than Hartford's temporary measure.
City officials said they also will be forming a "shooting team" with state prosecutors that will sharpen authorities' focus on solving shootings, punishing shooters and deterring such crimes.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut expressed concern but hasn't decided whether it will file a legal challenge, said staff attorney David McGuire.
"The ACLU of Connecticut opposes juvenile curfews because they're essentially a violation of fundamental rights of innocent people," he said. "Curfews essentially are placing an entire demographic, in this case, youth, under house arrest for the inappropriate actions of a few."
Perez, himself a former gang member, said the city will ask the state to increase supervision of people on probation and creating a "Most Watched List" of suspects wanted for crimes or known to be associated with illegal activities.
Other actions include asking state officials to increase supervision of people on probation.
Hartford officials have been struggling to curb violence in the city of 125,000. In June, the city's former deputy mayor was beaten and robbed while walking to breakfast, and a surveillance camera recorded cars zooming around a 78-year-old pedestrian who was laying helpless in the street after being struck by a speeding car.
No arrests have been made in those incidents, which prompted Chief Roberts to suggest that the city lost its moral compass.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Helena-West Helena, Ark., James Valley, said he had ordered an emergency curfew for a 10-block section of the town last week because the area was "under siege."
Police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes patrolled the 15,000-resident town's "curfew zone" Thursday night. They arrested about eight people and confiscated drugs and loaded weapons, police said.
Valley said the curfew would persist as long as the problem exists or until the city council can come up with a long-term plan at a meeting next week.
"It's something akin to martial law," Valley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It got to the point where somebody was going to get seriously hurt or killed if we didn't do something."
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas called the curfew "blatantly unconstitutional" and has demanded it be lifted.
"Such curfews have never been allowed under the laws of the United States, barring riot, insurrection, or natural disaster," ACLU attorney Holly Dickson wrote to the mayor Friday. "Not one case has ever allowed for the imposition of searches, seizures and house arrest against innocent citizens because of the high crime rate in a particular city."
Under Valley's order, officers do not tolerate loitering or "hanging out." Officers can stop and investigate all traffic, foot, motorized or otherwise.