Philadelphia mob
During an early afternoon press conference on the growing problem of mobs of African-American teens assaulting pedestrians, Mayor Michael Nutter announced further details of the city's plan to crack down on the violence before it goes any further.

A 9 p.m. curfew in the Center City District for children under the age of 18 will be strictly enforced. That area has been extended from Brown Street to Bainbridge Street and everything in between the Delaware to Schuylkill Rivers.

In some cases, parents could either lose their rights or face criminal charges of negligence if there's evidence to support it. District Attorney Seth Williams said it's possible even some suspects could face hate crime charges for randomly assaulting pedestrians.

"Obviously everyone understands that if packs of white teens were going around assaulting African Americans some people think that was a hate crime. We have to have appropriate evidence and probable cause to charge for hate crimes and if we have it, we will," Williams said. "But that's minor in some ways. Some of these teens have been charged will aggravated assault - a felony of the first degree, which is the maximum we have short of homicide. We're vigilant of this and I've instructed my charging unit to ascertain as many facts as possible and if appropriate, to charge them with hate crimes."

Nutter opened his remarks by saying that the majority of Philadelphia's youth aren't getting into trouble - they go to school, they work and study hard. Most engage in productive forms of recreation, Nutter said, but those who engage in acts of random violence - attacking people in Center City or any other neighborhood, will feel the full weight of the city's justice system come down on their shoulders.

"We need to remember that most of our young people are doing the right things. They do not participate in random attacks on our citizens or visitors," Nutter said. "Unfortunately there is a tiny minority of ignorant, reckless fools who are engaged in random acts of violence across the city. They seem not to grasp the full consequences of their actions. So I'm going to lay it out for them and for everyone else - these are rare occurrences, but they have a wide-ranging impact on our community. We are acting quickly, flexibly but forcefully."

Nutter's initiative involves law enforcement, the business community, community leaders, the clergy and parents and guardians. Parents who need help are encouraged to call 311 to get the ball rolling. And the community is being asked to step up to report any problems they see. The plan includes expanded hours - to 10 p.m. - of city-operated recreation centers.

"We're bringing community leaders from across the city and region to have more eyes and ears on our streets. We'll be continuing this for the duration of the summer," Nutter said. "As you saw this past weekend, Commissioner Charles Ramsey deployed an increased police presence in Center City - on foot, on bicycles and the mounted patrols - they are present and visible. Anyone who sees anything out of the ordinary should report it to police immediately. If you see something - then say something. We need the community to be our eyes and ears on the ground. This is not just a police department challenge, this is a challenge for all of us."

This past weekend was a quiet one in Center City - quiet in the sense that there were no mobs of Black youths assaulting people and there was a heightened and highly visible police presence. Last week, several pedestrians were attacked and robbed by a mob of 20 to 30 teens - over this weekend, 12 minors were cited for breaking curfew.

Nutter said the holistic approach emphasizes positive forms of recreation for young people. All of the city's pools and libraries are open. There are plenty of positive forms of recreation for young people, the mayor said.

"But if you are caught breaking curfew you will be taken to a police station or other location. Your parent or guardian will be contacted and you will face fines of $100.00 to $300.00 for the first violation and face time in custody," Nutter said. "Of course not every young person will be arrested. If you're out at 9:15 p.m. and coming home from, let's say the movies, the police officer will simply tell you to 'go home.' But if you are out wreaking havoc we are going to get you off the streets. Parents, it is your responsibility to know where your children are, whom they are with and what they are doing. They're your responsibility and your children, and you need to raise them. When you come to pick up your children for breaking curfew you will receive a warning the first time. For succeeding violations, parents will be fined up to $500.00, and if you don't bother to pick up your child, we will contact DHS and parents will be taken to court for other violations including neglect of your child. We are not joking and this is not a game - there are serious consequences for you and your children."