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A CURFEW FOR KIDS? // STREET STORIES

AFTER MIDNIGHT

Neighborhood Times went along for the ride with police Officer Tracey Schofield to see what kids do after midnight. Here are some highlights:

A little after midnight at Southland Lanes

Youths are everywhere. Wall-to-wall on the pavement outside Southland. Hanging around the parking lot. Sitting in cars. Leaning against cars. The McDonald's next door is crammed full of them.

They are all ages: 12-year-olds hanging out next to 20-year-olds.

They come, said 20-year-old Jason Wilkie, because "there is nothing to do in Pinellas Park except skating."

Southland closes at midnight. But the kids tell their parents closing time is 1 a.m. The parents don't check. So the youths run free until their parents come to get them.

Sometimes there is trouble.

"It's the problem with the people who come here to fight with the people who are already here," said Wilkie, who is from St. Petersburg. Once, "a kid hit (someone) in the face with a baseball bat."

Around 2 a.m. at a home in Pinellas Park

"They told my daughter she was jailbait," complains the mother of a 12-year-old.

The mother called police for help after she returned home from Carly's, a local bar, and learned that several youths had come by the house. She characterized them as gang members. They threatened her 12-year-old daughter, she said, and she wanted police to do something about it.

Her older son, who is on probation, had gone looking for the "gang" members to teach them a lesson. Her younger son, 15, also has been in trouble. He is sitting on a bike on the front lawn with a friend. He, too, wants to go fight.

"I've been warning my oldest son," the mother says. "He's endangering everyone who's living in the house. He's out looking for them."

The 15-year-old: "I would be, too, if I had a car." He gets angry because Schofield can't do much. "This is the reason people don't like the cops. If they hurt my sister, I will be on them."

Schofield: "That's not my fault."

The mother: "I have no control. (My older son) tells me flat out there's nothing I can do. He just spent five days in JDC (a juvenile detention center) for not following the school rules."

Around 2:30 a.m. on 49th Street

As Schofield turns onto 49th Street, two girls riding a bike whip across the street in front of him. One rides on the handlebars. No lights. No helmets. No reflectors. As they enter the Winn-Dixie parking lot, Schofield slows and has them pull up.

At first, he tells them about the curfew and asks their opinion.

"Sounds good," says the blond.

The other laughs at the blond's answer. When asked, the dark-haired one says she often stays out until 5 a.m. dancing and partying. A curfew, she says, would not change that.

What about a fine?

"OH, MY GOD! That would change it," says the dark-haired one. "This summer. OH, MY GOD!"

What are they doing riding around on bikes around 3 a.m.?

Going to buy toilet paper, says the blond, who says she is 15.

Do their parents know? What do their parents think about their riding bikes at 3 a.m.?

"My mom won't say nothing about it, but (my grandparents) will," says the dark-haired one, who also says she is 15.

Where do you live?

"I can't remember," says the dark-haired one.

Then the story starts changing.

At first, the two say they are going to "Kimmie's" house. Then, they say they are going to meet Kimmie at someone else's house. Then, they are spending the night at Kimmie's and the bike belongs to Kimmie. At first, their parents and Kimmie's mother know where they are. Then, they don't. Then, they have permission to be at Kimmie's. Then, they don't.

Schofield wants a way to contact either their parents or Kimmie's mother to make sure some adult is taking care of them.

They also don't know Kimmie's address.

Finally, the dark-haired teen gives Schofield her grandparents' phone number. They live next door to her parents.

As Schofield begins making calls, the dark-haired teen becomes upset. Her grandparents, she says, will be angry.

"I'm not going to hear about it because I'm going to leave," she tells the blond. "I'm going to Jersey."

They talk among themselves about the possibility of going back to Kimmie's. But Kimmie's mother won't be sympathetic, they say.

"She'll tell us to leave because Kimberly's not there," the dark-haired teen says. "Her mom's going to tell us to leave."

The dispatcher has sent Schofield a computer message that the dark-haired girl's mother has called and is coming to get her. The message continues: "Mom sounds put out. She has to go to work in the morning."

By this time, other officers have joined Schofield, and the girls have remembered where they were staying. The bike is loaded in the trunk of a patrol car and the girls are loaded in the back seat. The convoy of three police cars drives a few blocks and stops at the one house with a light on.

An officer knocks at the door. A woman answers. It's Kimmie's mother.

Until that moment, she did not know her daughter had invited two friends to spend the night. She also did not know that the two friends had taken Kimmie's bike. Until the police told her, she was unaware her daughter was not home.

Kimmie's mom takes the bike and turns over the girls' backpacks. The two are taken off to the Pinellas Park police station to await their parents.

Later, Schofield adds one detail on the blond.

She's not 15. She's 13.

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