According to residents, the congregating of mass groups of kids has been an issue for a while now. However, it was the violent out break after a June arts fair on Coventry Street that was the last straw for the Cleveland suburb.
Coventry Street Fair is a bi-annual event which happens every summer on Coventry Street in Cleveland Heights. Business owners from around the county come out and share what their business has to offer while residents of all ages come out to walk around and shop. However, the June 2011 fair took a violent turn as upwards of 1,000 kids showed up unsupervised. While that number is subjective depending on who you speak with, they certainly caused a ruckus.
The streets were so packed together that people were having trouble walking. A couple of kids got purposefully attacked, but the violence generally broke out amongst the chaos. City officials called this mass violence a flash mob. 27 people were arrests but only three of them were Cleveland Heights residents.
After some investigation, it was discovered that kids had organized to come to this event through the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. While violence was not the initial intent of most of the social networking conversations regarding the event, it was the outcome.
The City Council, which is lead by Mayor Ed Kelley, sprung into action very quickly over the next few days. By June 30, less than a week after the post street fair violence, kids under the age of 18 were not permitted to frequent Coventry Village and Cedar-Lee Commercial areas between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. without a parent or guardian. Parent’s whose children break the new law will be required to come pick their child up and pay a $50 fine.
Coventry Village is the commercial epicenter of Cleveland Heights. It has many restaurants, music and book shops. It has been a popular hang out spot for many generations and until recently was generally a safe place to be.
There are a few exceptions to the curfew rule. Juveniles can be without a parent in these areas between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. if they are on an errand for a parent , if they are engaged in lawful employment, coming and going from an event in the area or coming home from some kind of athletic or school practice.
The Heights community burst with both support and outrage over this new curfew. While it was understood that this legislation was passed in order to keep the community safe, some parents worried if the 6 p.m. curfew start time was much too early.
The community held an open forum on July 13 when all different community residents came out to have an open discussion about what was really going on.
Some thought the issue was racial, while others thought it was necessary measure being taken. While it is tough to say a consensus has been reached, it seemed like the community wanted something done but the curfew in place was not necessarily it.
The biggest issue with violence in Cleveland Heights is that it is not Cleveland Heights teens causing the issues. Youth are coming in from other cities, supposedly organizing through social networking, to come to these different places and being mischievous. While violence may not always be the intent, the majority of the time these large gatherings do end in some kind of altercation.
The youth made sure their voice was not forgotten in this debate. A group that calls themselves the Youth of Coventry have been very supportive of the measures council is taking because they want to see the streets they loved returned to the safe place it once was. They support the 6 p.m. curfew for the time being, but if it slips into permanence they will pull their support for council.
The Youth of Coventry have also been working with Cleveland Heights City Council to make them more adept to the ways of social networking.
While the curfew debate is long from over, it has proven to be an interesting case for me to follow in my first freelance writing position. Initially I batted for the team that was thoroughly against this kind of infringement on teen rights. However, after speaking with everyone and looking at the issue I realize it is not as black and white as it seems. This issue is less about right infringement and more a communities effort to keep itself safe in a world they sometimes do not recognize. If the youth can continue to work with council and if the county Cleveland Heights is apart of can come together and work on this issue more holistically, over time this issue could be resolved.
For more information on this issue and my coverage over the past month visit http://www.cleveland.com/cleveland-heights/