ANDERSON — With schools out for summer, more children are out in their yards and on the streets, and the responsibility for their all-day care falls back to their parents.
And, in some unfortunate situations, law enforcement officers.
Officials from police departments around Madison County confirm that when summer comes around, the increased presence of kids becomes a safety issue, whether they’re biking out in the street or out too late at night.
According to Indiana code, any child younger than 15 needs to be out of public spaces after 11 p.m., with a few exceptions like family functions. Fifteen- to 17-year-olds are subject to the same curfew except on Saturday and Sunday, when they can be out until 1 a.m.
Law enforcement officers agree that breaking curfew is the cause for most safety issues involving kids.
“I’ve always thought nothing good happens after midnight,” said Elwood Police Chief Sam Hanna.
Hanna said the most important aspect to keeping kids safe during the summer months is keeping parents involved. When parents are aware of where their children are, who they’re with and what they’re doing, fewer problems arise.
Officer Chad Boynton of the Anderson Police Department agreed. He said he respects the laws, but even the current curfew laws are fairly lax, and parents need to share responsibility.
“It’s on both the parents and the kids. It’s a shared responsibility. Obviously it shifts a little more as the kids get older, but parents always need to be involved.”
Boynton said he sees an increase in simple disturbances involving kids during the summer. Sometimes, if parents aren’t involved, police can force responsibility on them, inconveniencing them by forcing them to come get their children after an incident.
“Sometimes it’s the best way to get their attention,” Boynton said.
But curfew isn’t the only safety issue for children when the weather gets warmer. The use of youth-popular modes of transportation like bicycles and mopeds get a boost during the summer, with both children and their parents increasing use.
Few places in Madison County have paths dedicated to bike use, and there are even other heavily residential areas that don’t even have sidewalks, so there’s another shared responsibility between children and parents to be educated on bike safety.
For law enforcement, most departments prepare their forces for the influx of youth on the streets. Pendleton Chief Marc Farrer works in a historic town that’s barely built to handle automobiles, let alone bicycles. He said his officers are mostly very experienced and are always prepared for this time of year.
“Even so, we ask families to be aware of the dangers of playing out in the street,” Farrer said.
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