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Police Cite Parents for Kids' Crimes

The Short of It

Several violent robberies and attacks have been committed by teens in St. Louis the past few months, and the police are responding by citing their guardians. They aren't the only cops holding parents accountable for their kids' actions. Law enforcement agencies in Chicago, Wisconsin, Texas and Florida have also gone after parents in recent months.

The Lowdown

Since October, police have had to increase their presence in downtown St. Louis because groups of teens have been violently attacking and robbing people, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The most recent case of violence involves four teens who were part of a drive-by shooting late Saturday night. The teens were victims of the shooting, but on Monday, area police issued summonses to their guardians for "Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor."

Police had learned through questioning that the guardians didn't know where their children were or what they were doing that night, which is a violation of a city ordinance that defines parents' responsibility for their children. The ordinance says it's illegal "to support, to encourage, aid or cause" those younger than 17 to "commit any act or engage in any conduct which would be injurious." The parents could face a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 90 days in prison if convicted.

"I want parents to get in the loop," Capt. Daniel Howard, commander of St. Louis's Fourth District, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If parents or guardians are held accountable, then maybe they'll have a conversation with their teens before they cut them loose on the streets."

Earlier this year, Chicago officials invoked the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law to recoup damages from teen vandals. In 2013, towns in Wisconsin, Texas and Florida tried to hold parents responsible when their kids bullied others.

The Upshot

"Parental monitoring of youth's activities, strong parent-child connectedness, and good parent-child communication, can protect against the development of violent behavior, even when young people are exposed to violence in their communities," says Howard Spivak, MD and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Violence Prevention.

So the real question is, where were the parents?

The St. Louis citations were given to three guardians of the four teens—an uncle, a grandfather and an aunt. Police said they made several unsuccessful attempts to find the teens' parents, and they plan to pursue a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment against the mother of the fourth teen because no guardian was found.

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