Two working mothers were fined a total of $175 Tuesday because their teen-age children were on city streets last week in violation of the municipal curfew.
The two, who pleaded guilty to violating the curfew's provisions on parental responsibility, told the judge who fined them that they were at their jobs at the time of the curfew violations.
One of them questioned how she can be responsible for her 15-year-old son at night when she has to work.
"You cannot watch a kid 24 hours a day," Mamie L. King wrote in a letter to the editor in the local newspaper. "And I have no other choice but to work. . . . If I didn't work for him and me, no one (would) give me anything."
Mrs. King, 43, of 3 Ashley Place, was fined $75 because her son was out at 1 a.m. Thursday in violation of the 11 p.m. curfew for persons under 17. She told the court she is a working mother and has "taken some precautions" to prevent future violations.
The other woman, Mary E. Ozimek, 38, of 281 Genesee St., was fined $100, which she will be allowed to pay at $10 a week. She pleaded guilty to allowing her 15-year-old son outside after the curfew on two occasions.
Ms. Ozimek told City Judge Gerald D. Watson that she "was at work at the time" and her son was "watching himself." The teen frequently is left alone, she said -- often to care for his 12-year-old brother.
Both were among five parents issued summonses by police in a curfew crackdown ordered by Mayor Thomas C. Rotondo Jr.
The order followed an increase in late-night rowdyism and fighting, as well as last week's early morning attack on a city youth in which one of the attackers told the victim, "We control the streets after 11."
That statement upset Rotondo, prompting him to order more police patrols around Washburn, Genesee and Locust streets, according to Police Chief Paul Leyden.
Leyden said residents have complained about youths gathering on street corners and outside stores in that area, "breaking a bottle here and there and hollering."
He added that aside from a few fistfights, there have been no injuries or other violence.
"The word has gone out," he said, referring to the curfew crackdown. "I'm not saying they're off the street, but they're out of sight."
He said the curfew is enforced sporadically.
David G. Jay, a Buffalo lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, said the ordinance is impossible to enforce, invites unequal enforcement and places too heavy a burden on parents of adolescents.
"It's unequal treatment that is the root of the problem," Jay said.
Youth-curfew laws, he added, have generally "not fared very well" under constitutional scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court, but few such cases have reached the high court in recent years.
"The police should spend their time seeing that crimes are not committed, not creating crimes," Jay said.
In other curfew cases:
Ella R. Reinbolt, 35, of 6060 East Ave., Newfane, pleaded innocent to allowing her 14-year-old son to be on the street at 12:30 a.m. Thursday. She told the judge she was home at the time her child was picked up by police. A trial was scheduled for July 30.
Shirley A. Mix, 35, of 1 Bewley Parkway was granted an adjournment until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday after pleading innocent to allowing her son on a public street after curfew.
Sheryl L. Bartlett, 31, of 109 Chestnut St. was granted an adjournment until 8:30 a.m. Monday after pleading innocent to allowing her 15-year-old son outside at 12:05 a.m. Thursday.
The parental responsibility provision of the curfew calls for youngsters under 17 to be off the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Parents found guilty of violations may be fined up to $250 and jailed for up to 15 days.
News staff reporter Joseph Boris contributed to this story.