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Don't use curfew as hiring pretext City police should enforce law as best they can with the force they have now

Incoming Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson is on target to get a "jump start" before warmer weather returns on violators of the city's youth curfew law.

But the effort does not justify hiring more police in the department, which has spent the past few years with a reform agenda. And that's what it sounds like. Gipson should work to get more productivity and accountability with current officers.

The law states police can detain children under age 17 who are on city streets between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays or between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekends. Parents of first-time violators can receive a warning, and parents of repeat offenders face a fine of up to $200.

Most people know that when their children stay out late, trouble generally ensues. So Gipson makes a good point about scooping these minors up and taking them to their parents, and letting them know they're responsible too. Parental accountability plays a major role if this process is to work.

Still, a cautionary note must be given to the new police commissioner. He is already talking about increasing patrols, indirectly asking the control board for permission to hire more police officers to offset service reductions by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, which ended police services last year. But service calls in that sector in 2005 came to about six per district within the housing projects in a 24-hour period.

Grandiose plans are all well and good, but Gipson must take stock of current fiscal realities. An increase in the police force is unrealistic, especially given reductions in the crime rate and population over the last 10 years. And if enforcing the youth curfew is a pretext to hire more officers, Gipson should go back to the drawing board.

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