Ordinance Fines Parents for Kids' Bad Behavior

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Prom, graduation, even warm weather, they all bring young people outside looking for a good time, but a good time can turn dangerous if kids abuse drugs or alcohol. That's what worried Dane County sheriff's deputies who broke up a party Thursday night at a local park.

People come to Stewart Lake to fish, to picnic, to listen to its creatures, but sheriff's deputies say Thursday night eight young people came here to break the law.

"They were drinking, obviously, and a couple of them had THC," Elise Schaffer, public information officer for the Dane County Sheriff's office, says.

THC is the ingredient found in marijuana. Deputies say the kids scattered when patrols arrived. Some dove into the water, others climbed trees.

"The kids were resistive actually, which is what compounded situation. A couple of them were cited for obstructing in addition to drinking tickets," Schaffer says.

The Sheriff's Department dispatched an airboat just in case, but instead used a thermal imaging camera to find the kids. Deputies issued tickets to the teens, but a similar situation in Milwaukee could find parents liable if their children violate city ordinances.

Madison Police Officer Howard Payne says, "I think anything we can do to help parents make better parenting choices; to get kids back on track is a positive for everybody."

The Milwaukee ordinance proposed says the parent of a juvenile who offends twice within six months, or three or more times in one year, is considered guilty of failing to supervise the child.

That parent could face a fine of between $200 and $400.

Payne says hitting parents in the pocketbook could force them to take notice. Parents also think it's a good idea.

Debbie Senn says, "If they suddenly find actions of children affect them, then they'll maybe be a bit more responsible themselves."

Police say Madison has no such ordinance. Parents could avoid the fine if they meet one of several criteria; for instance, if they reported the violation. The Milwaukee City Council takes up the issue in a couple of weeks.

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