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Public Safety

Can An Old Public Safety Campaign Curb Youth Violence in Atlanta?

A resolution passed by the City Council asks local orgs and media to channel a PSA from the 1960s.

City leaders hope this current campaign will help curb youth violence by encouraging parents to make sure their children are home in the evening. (Getty Images)

Last month, the Atlanta City Council channeled a past public safety campaign to address present crime issues. Adopted by the council on March 20, the resolution calls for community organizations and media to bring back the popular public safety campaign “It’s 9 p.m., do you know where your children are?” 

The PSAs, a brief announcement which normally airs at the start of a station’s news hour, originated in the late 1960s after the Newark riots, which caused millions in property damage, left 26 people dead, and over 700 injured. The PSAs first began airing on WNYW, now metro New York’s Fox affiliate, and then spread to metropolitan areas across the country.

The Atlanta resolution, introduced by Post 3 At-Large council member Keisha Sean Waites, does not make any changes to the existing 11 p.m. curfew for minors, which is not widely known by residents or enforced by police. Waites proposed an earlier curfew — 8 p.m. — in December 2022. Waites and other city leaders hope this current campaign will help curb youth violence by encouraging parents to make sure their children are home in the evening. So far, Radio One Atlanta and Fox 5 have agreed to begin broadcasting the PSA.

We spoke with Waites about what the resolution does, getting community buy-in, and why she feels it’s a necessary step to take.

Capital B Atlanta: What does this resolution do?

Keisha Sean Waites: In the early ’60s, this campaign was extremely popular and very effective to curb violence among young people and throughout cities nationwide. So this was a nationwide campaign that proved to be effective. It doesn’t cost the taxpayers a dime, right? It doesn’t require any effort other than going on your social media and using your personal networks to say, “Hey, do you know where your kids are?”

And the other piece, too, for those that don’t have issues with their kids, it simply puts those parents on notice that allowing your kid to go to Atlantic Station at 3 o’clock in the afternoon could prove violent and ultimately be a situation where your kid could be harmed.

So it’s about also supervising your children to make sure that you know where they are, that they have adequate supervision if they are in fact minors.

Why a resolution and not an ordinance?

So right now we don’t have the political or legislative or community support right now. The goal is to have conversations around the city to do a little bit more education and to build community support. 

There are a number of parents that believe that at the end of the day, we don’t need any more measures or laws in place to govern this conversation.

We’re not reaching into their bedrooms, we’re not putting any policy in place. This is a resolution that we believe is good policy, and I am encouraged by the unanimous support that I received from members of the council.

You received pushback on a previous effort to make curfew for Atlanta youth earlier. Is this resolution an effort to address some of that?

The thought process for many of them was that all kids are good kids, they’re involved in extracurricular activities, they’re involved in work and so forth, and this would be, in fact, punitive. 

We put several measures in the legislation to address this. There is a measure in the legislation for emancipated teens who are unsheltered. There’s a measure in there for individuals who are involved in work, athletics, school or religious activities already. That’s written to the existing curfew.

How do you think this message will help?

This is not a point your finger campaign. This is not something to say, “You need to do this, that, or the other.” That’s not what we’re saying.

What we’re saying is simply, whomever this applies to, if you have underage children, we’re encouraging you to know where they are.

This is a campaign that involves the corporate community, the faith community, the philanthropic community. We always talk about it takes a village, but guess what? When you are dealing with a kid that’s unruly or that has behavioral issues, you’re generally by yourself. The village is not there.

So this is an opportunity for the retail community, everybody, to step up. We should not be serving young people at fast food facilities in the middle of the day when they should be at school.