Mayor Michael Nutter is applauding Philadelphia’s first weekend of tighter curfew enforcement.
To help counteract the lure of roaming mobs, the city arranged new bowling, dancing, and recreation opportunities to keep youth off the street and out of trouble.
Nutter is calling on Philadelphia’s business community to support positive youth activities with volunteers, money and more job opportunities for teens.
Fran O’Donnell, the owner of O’Doodles toy store in Chestnut Hill, said kids need things to do.
“We’re thinking about maybe starting Friday night chess nights for kids that would give them something better to do rather than, you know, just hanging out at the local convenience store or whatever,” O’Donnell said. “They really need to get back to the social integration of just talking and having fun.”
Businesses—especially those in areas where pack attacks have occurred—have a vested interest in keeping kids out of mobs and involved in more wholesome fun, officials say.
Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Wonderling agreed that it’s important for businesses to help create opportunities for youth.
However, he said, there is “a plethora of not-for-profit organizations and quasi-public agencies that are already doing good works across the city of Philadelphia and we would encourage our members and the broader citizenry to find these organizations and to support them financially.”
“To a young Philadelphian who says, ‘I just don’t have a productive place to go,’ I just don’t believe that to be the case,” Wonderling said.
Jordan Harris leads the Philadelphia Youth Commission, which advises the mayor. In some cases, Harris said, the kids who would get caught up in roaming mobs are the same kids who turned out for city-sponsored fun over the weekend.
“Many of them just want to have a good time and I think that’s what we created for them on Saturday,” Harris said.
Harris says the business community needs to get more involved, to give young people hope.
“Many of them look at the economy and many of them feel a sense of hopelessness when it comes to employment. All they’re looking for is their first opportunity, their first shot,” Harris said. “We can give them things today, but if we teach them how to work and fend for themselves, they’ll have it for a lifetime.”
Your thoughts: What kinds of activities would you like to see created to keep teenagers occupied and off the streets? How do you occupy your own kids at home?