CLEVELAND (WJW) – Is lax curfew enforcement contributing to the current surge in violent crime across Cleveland?

Councilman Mike Polensek, Ward-8 and chair of the safety committee, says yes and that it is time to start cracking down on curfew violators by holding their parents accountable.

“I’m thinking, ‘why aren’t we holding parents accountable?” said Polensek. “You brought these kids into the world and you should be responsible for them.”

He says, in many of the crimes, both the victims and suspects are juveniles out past curfew.

In July, the FOX 8 I-Team showed shocking video of teenagers shooting guns wildly in the streets and viciously attacking an innocent man at East 140th and St. Clair.

One of the kids out that night was just 12 years old.

“You got a 12-year-old kid out running in the middle of the night, that’s unacceptable,” said Polensek.

According to the city’s current curfew ordinance, unless with a parent or legal guardian, children 12 and younger must be inside from dark until dawn.

Teens 13-14 must be inside 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., 15-16 must be inside 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 17-year-olds must be inside midnight to 6 a.m. 

According to the ordinance, “Any person who violates division (b) of this section is guilty of negligently failing to supervise a child, a minor misdemeanor for a first offense and may be required to perform supervised community service work pursuant to division (H) of RC 2951.02 in the ward in which the child was arrested or detained, the value of such service work not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00).”

But Councilman Polensek wants to significantly increase those citations and penalties, possibly fining parents $250 for the first offense and $500 for each offense after that, if not more.

“Look at the number of stolen cars, look at the number of felonies assaults, look at the number of shootings involving teenagers,” said Polensek. “The day of just ignoring the worst of the worst terrorizing our neighborhood, that’s got to come to an end.”

Residents at their monthly community meeting at the Estabrook Recreation Center Wednesday night seemed to overwhelmingly agree.

“I’m tired of all the gunshots and then the fireworks and then more gunshots,” said Lorraine Donnelly.

“Rowdy kids stay out until 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. and they’re under 12,” said Marie Williams. “Where are the parents?”

One issue discussed at the meeting is the lack of police officers.

The force is currently down hundreds of officers and recently only graduated 11 despite council approving a budget to hire more last year.

“$145 million we allocated to safety, on top of what we already give to the police department,” said Council President Blaine Griffin.

“There are still people who want to be police officers,” said Ward-13 Councilman Kris Harsh. “My biggest question is, why did they pass over 98 eligible applicants for the police academy?”

Also concerned about the violence and attending the meeting was Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, who commented on the idea of increasing penalties for parents.

“There is a problem with kids being out after curfew and it seems as simple as beginning to write tickets, issuing them to the parents and making the parents come to court to explain and maybe that will begin to curtail some of this violence,” said O’Malley.

FOX 8 reached out to the city for comment. A city spokesperson said, “We support efforts aimed at curbing the violence our city is seeing. We will review the proposals to see if they will have those intended effects.”