Hartford Beefs Up Teen Curfew After Shootings

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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, 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. 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 also were shot.

No arrests had been made Monday. Police were looking for suspects and asking for the public's help.

Roberts 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 one of two locations 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.

The post-parade shooting occurred around 6:30 p.m.

Perez said that the city's curfew ordinance has been in place since 1977 but that there hasn't been a need to enforce it until now. Much of the past violence was isolated, he said, with specific individuals targeted.

"This is aimed at helping young people in our city. This is not an attempt to be punitive," he said.

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 also will ask the state to increase supervision of people on probation and creating a "Most Watched List" of suspects wanted for crimes or associated with illegal activities. Other actions include asking state officials to increase supervision of people on probation.

Rep. Kenneth Green, a Hartford Democrat, said he hopes the shootings will renew efforts to address the underlying causes of the violence, such as joblessness, lack of parental oversight and anger among youths.

"It's a bigger picture than just a curfew," he said.

Hartford officials have been struggling to curb violence in the city of 125,000. In June, the former deputy mayor was beaten and robbed while walking to breakfast, and a surveillance camera recorded cars zooming around a 78-year-old pedestrian lying in the street after being struck by a car.

No arrests have been made in those incidents, which led Chief Roberts to suggest 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 loaded weapons and drugs, police said.

The curfew follows incidents involving guns that authorities and neighbors said stemmed from a small debt that one man refused to repay to a neighbor. Some people slept on their floors for fear of being struck by stray bullets.

Valley said the order would be in place as long as the problem persists.

"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."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas called the curfew "blatantly unconstitutional" and has demanded it be lifted.