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Nutter tightens weekend curfew on Center City

The economic and social core of the city will be off-limits to minors after 9 p.m. on weekends after Mayor Nutter announced Monday that he was expanding the city's curfew in response to "flash mobs" of marauding teenagers.

The economic and social core of the city will be off-limits to minors after 9 p.m. on weekends after Mayor Nutter announced Monday that he was expanding the city's curfew in response to "flash mobs" of marauding teenagers.

The early curfew will apply to anyone under 18 in Center City and University City, where police officers on foot, bike, and horseback will continue to be deployed in force.

Nutter also said 20 of the city's largest recreation centers would be open until 10 Friday and Saturday nights as the city searches for more "long-term, sustainable . . . safe spaces for our young people."

The mayor called the moves part of a "holistic response" to the flash mob phenomenon that has plagued the city the last two summers.

In the most recent incident, on July 29, teens beat random strangers in Center City. Among the four young males arrested in those attacks was an 11-year-old boy.

"We are not joking around. This not a game. This is not fun," Nutter said. "It is no one's idea of how to spend time in any part of the city."

The mayor attempted to balance his anger at what he called "erratic, senseless attacks" with a focus on "positive options for our young people."

"When we ignore our young people's needs, when we don't offer job opportunities, when we don't invest in their education or in their future, all of us have failed them," he said.

The announcements came a day after Nutter delivered an impassioned and personal speech from the pulpit of Mount Carmel Baptist, his church of 25 years. The mayor blistered absent fathers and neglectful parents in the black community and told troublemaking teens: "You have damaged your own race."

"I said what needed to be said, at a time that it needed to be said. And I think, quite honestly, people were ready to hear it," Nutter said Monday.

The mayor was backed at Monday's news conference by a huge contingent of city officials and leaders from the black community, including J. Whyatt Mondesire, the leader of the Philadelphia NAACP.

Mondesire said the mayor's Mount Carmel speech "took courage" to deliver, and said he supported Nutter's efforts to rein in the flash mobs.

"These are mostly African American youths, and they need to be called on it," he said. "Right now, our overwhelming concern is the safety of all Philadelphians."

The curfew will be enforced in neighborhoods where the mob attacks have occurred or where large groups of teens gather.

The boundaries where the curfew will apply in Center City are Vine Street to Bainbridge Street and the Delaware River to the Schuylkill.

In University City, the curfew will apply from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue and 38th to 43d Streets.

"If we have problems come up in other parts of the city, we'll move the grid," Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said. "But right now, these are the areas . . . where we think we can have the greatest impact."

The previous curfew for minors between 13 and 17 had been 10:30 p.m. during the week and midnight Friday and Saturday. This past weekend, police cited a dozen teens for violating that curfew, Nutter said.

Teens can be fined up to $300 and parents can face fines of up to $500 after a child violates curfew for a second time. Nutter said he would work with City Council in the fall to write a comprehensive curfew law.

Nutter said the early curfew does not mean police will arrest any teen out after those hours.

"But if you are out wreaking havoc, if you are out causing problems, if you are out doing things you shouldn't be doing, we're going to get you off the streets," he said.

City officials promised to continue seeking harsh punishment for teens involved in the assaults and vandalism.

"When all else fails and people give up all the norms of society, they're going to deal with us," District Attorney Seth Williams said. "There will be no diversionary programs, no community service, for people who commit random acts of violence."

Nutter repeated another refrain - that flash mobs are not "just a policing problem. This is challenge for all of us as community members."

He called for community leaders and volunteers to step up to help youths, but he also issued another scolding to parents.

"It is your responsibility to know where your kids are, what they are doing, and who they are with," he said. "They are your children. You need to raise them."

The city is going to continue reaching out to teens through youth-friendly media, and a number of other initiatives are under consideration, said Jordan Harris, executive director of the city's Youth Commission.

"If we're going to tell them what they can't do, we have to tell them what they can do," he said.

Radio personalities, and North Philadelphia natives, Izzo and DJ Damage also plan to discuss flash mobs and encourage positive outlets for teens on their shows on FM 100.3 The Beat.

DJ Damage said he planned to speak to students at 15 high schools this school year.

"That's really the pledge I'm taking for the city," he said. "I support the mayor 100 percent."

Nutter said the stakes were high - flash mobs bruise the reputation and vitality of the city - and he made no apologies for saying that black teens who participate in them are harming their race.

"When [people] see that kind of behavior and activity, it is in fact damaging to all African Americans and all Philadelphians," Nutter said. "That's why I said what I said."

Rec Centers With Expanded Hours

Here are the 20 city recreation centers that will be open until 10 on Friday and Saturday nights as part of Mayor Nutter's effort to address the "flash mobs" of teenagers that have run rampant in Center City recently.

Northern Liberties Recreation Center. 321 Fairmount Ave.

Murphy Recreation Center, 300 Shunk St.

Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St.

Myers Recreation Center, 5800 Kingsessing Ave.

Christy Recreation Center, 728 S. 55th St.

Kingsessing Recreation Center, 5000 Chester Ave.

Shepard Recreation Center, 5700 Haverford Ave.

Gustine Lake Recreation Center, 4863 Ridge Ave.

Hank Gathers Recreation Center, 2501 W. Diamond St.

Athletic Recreation Center, 1401 N. 27th St.

Vogt Recreation Center, 4131 Unruh St.

Samuel Recreation Center, 3539 Gaul St.

McVeigh Recreation Center, 400 E. Ontario St.

Feltonville Recreation Center, 231 E. Wyoming Ave.

Lonnie Young Recreation Center, 1100 E. Chelten Ave.

Happy Hollow Recreation Center, 4740 Wayne Ave.

Olney Recreation Center, 100 E. Godfrey Ave.

Lawncrest Recreation Center, 6000 Rising Sun Ave.

Simons Recreation Center, 7200 Woolston St.

Fox Chase Recreation Center, 7901 Ridgeway St.EndText

See a video of Mayor Nutter's speech from the pulpit at Mount Carmel Baptist Church at