The Wild Ones

Problem: Teen kids make trouble in Center City after school. Here’s the Inky’s report on what happened:

About 150 students, many still in their school uniforms, met at the Gallery, at 9th and Market streets, about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, but were soon kicked out by security guards, Bethel said.

From there, he said, the students rushed west on Market, through the crowds, knocking people down and causing panic.

The band of teens headed to Macy's at 13th and Market, where they vandalized fixtures, causing an estimated $700 in damage, Bethel said.
The teens then headed to 15th Street and JFK Boulevard and started throwing snowballs at one another, bystanders and cars. Most of those who were arrested were picked up there.

Solution? Here's what's so far been suggested by the School District, the police, members of Council and other electeds:

  • Sue Facebook
  • Change student Transpass rules to force all District students to be home by 4:30
  • Hunt them down and lock ‘em up
  • More police in Center City and at the Gallery
  • Expel offending kids from school

Yeah.

These responses are hysterical and indicate not just shameless grand-standing but also a fundamental lack of responsibility.

The real solution to teenagers acting out is simple: Give them something constructive to do.

Like a job. Like arts programming at schools. Like sports. Like a rec center with decent programming. Like libraries that are open till 7 PM every day.

And the other thing that would help in this matter: increase parent support programming. Better skilled parents equal better behaved kids.

Maybe I missed it, but I don't think anyone in power has talked publicly about these kinds of solutions.

The responses that have been offered thus far are punitive measures that are unfair (in the case of transpasses), illogical (in the case of blaming “social networking sites”), and counter-productive (in the case of our criminal justice system, especially for youth on the verge of adulthood or expulsion).

Even more discouraging, the vitriolic response to a simple problem indicates a lack of priorities or a sense of what responsible spending is.

We can mobilize millions of dollars in police overtime when we need to flood the Gallery with cops. But why, year after year, can we not find the money to adequately fund the kind of programming that would serve our city’s teenagers?

Why can’t we find the money for the kinds of family support programs—like those offered at Settlement Houses—to help parents and kids improve their relationships? Why can’t we fix DHS? Why don't we have a higher high-school graduation rate?

If we looked at the real solutions to the problems teens can cause en mass, we could reduce violence and crime. And we could increase the chances that today’s students can be tomorrow’s successful contributors to the local economy.

Something to think about as we wait for the Mayor's budget address on Thursday.

I think you're spot on.

That's about it. You mention all the real solutions, the real questions, we need answered.

I would add even more

The fact that city officials have been responsible for the closure of pools and rec centers, allowed library hours to constrict rather than expand, have watched parks lay fallow. It's not just that the city is not thinking of stuff, they have been active in cutting back on things that give kids alternatives then freak when kids don't do what they think. Thanks for writing this much needed post.

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