The "City of Love," like so many urban areas struggles with youth crime and violence. Ari Melman, a junior studying business administration at Drexel University pens this Op/Ed piece titled: "Curfews and Criminalization Won't Work."
The article opens by saying, "The excessive criminalization of Philadelphia's young people has only pushed them toward flash mobs and other violent activities. Instead of responding with more criminalization - such as the city curfews instituted last summer - officials should be encouraging structured play, public spaces, and harmless social gatherings."
Safe spaces for structured play, recreation and socializing is key to juvenile crime prevention. Continues Melman in his article, " Efforts to promote structured play, by contrast, have been proven to decrease violence in Philadelphia schools. At Charles Drew Elementary, the nonprofit organization Playworks helped improve student participation, cooperation, and focus in classrooms by organizing play at recess and other times, and violence went down school-wide, according to administrators. But uncertain district and school finances have put such successes in jeopardy; arts and play programs are often the first on the chopping block.
Youths in neighborhoods that support play tend to be better off and less violent, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Students participating in at least one hour of extracurricular activity are 49 percent less likely to use drugs and 37 percent less likely to become teenage parents. Accessible public spaces help young people develop positive social relationships, learn conflict resolution, and become more civic-minded.
There are signs that policymakers are learning this. The city curfew, for example, was accompanied by extended hours at recreation centers - a sign that officials understand criminalization won't solve the problem.
Rather than categorizing all young people as probable criminals, the city and schools must adopt more policies that support and encourage law-abiding youths. When kids don't have ways to play peacefully, they find other ways to gather and entertain themselves. But if we stop treating our children like criminals, they'll stop playing that role."
Read the entire article by clicking here and tell us how your cities are reducing juvenile crime with creative alternatives.