Philadelphia students are back to school and the controversial flash mob attacks are practically non-existent since.
Confident that the curfew crackdown was successful, Mayor Michael Nutter is now proposing permanent and drastic curfew changes in spite of the decline in flash mob violence in targeted areas.
The Philadelphia Student Union (PSU), located within the confines of the curfew enforcement area, continues to align with the curfew times so that the students they serve are well on their way home to avoid being found on the streets after hours.
“The curfew ordinance has a direct impact on us,” said Nijmie Dzurinko, PSU executive director.
PSU programs, meetings and resources are scheduled so students have ample travel time to navigate home when they must use public transportation and are not able to travel with a parent.
The students themselves appear to be impacted the most by the harsh curfew restrictions being enforced by police officers. PSU student members feel that working students have the biggest challenge in dealing with the curfew hours.
“A lot of my friends work because they have to or they enjoy making money on their own,” said Bernard Nesmith, a senior at South Philadelphia’s Furness High School. Nesmith personally noted the flash mob label is both inappropriate and creates the thought that the average teenager is bad.
For many students, there is the notion that because older teenagers are able to work, they are able to enjoy their earnings.
Many youth patronize the popular and abundant downtown and West Philadelphia eateries, cinemas and retail stores that are often not found within their individual neighborhoods.
Philadelphia’s extensive public transportation system makes it all the more accessible for youth to travel within and outside of the city perimeter to take advantage of some of the many benefits offered in Center City and surrounding areas.
“Unfortunately, many of the students impacted by the curfew enforcement areas are working part-time jobs downtown, where they are unable to navigate home in sufficient time,” Dzurinko said. “The students enjoy being downtown as much as tourists. Not all large or small groups of students lead to violence.
“Individuals who break the law should be dealt with on an individual basis,” Dzurinko added. “Collective punishment targeting a small geographic area is not going to solve the root issue.”
In her fifth year as executive director, Dzurinko feels honored to work with young people who move from being subjects of their conditions to agents for change.
She has observed that too often young people are wrongly criminalized, punished and stereotyped for various reasons.
“The focus should be more on implementing programs and resources that can help the students not punish them,” Dzurinko said.