City adopts parental responsibility ordinance

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published November 18, 2013

HARPER WOODS — City Council tabled the first reading of a parental responsibility ordinance in July, and that ordinance sat on the table until the Nov. 4 City Council meeting, when the ordinance was adopted by a 6-0 vote.

The ordinance is meant to hold parents responsible for delinquent acts committed by their minor children. The ordinance comes with possible fines ranging from $75-$500, depending on the number of convictions, and possible jail terms of up to 90 days.

Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Costantino said she believes this will help police tackle situations with seriously delinquent children. She said this isn’t meant for parents dealing with typical teens.

“There’s just a few kids that are causing the same problem over and over and over again,” she said. “It’s only three or four kids. These are the … kids that are constantly terrifying their neighbors.

“Police are constantly being called about these children,” Costantino added.

City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk agreed that these are for severe cases where parents are aware of ongoing issues but not working to resolve the matters.

“In practice and experience, these types of ordinances are not used that often,” he said.

The ordinance comes with a progression so first offenses come with lesser penalties than subsequent offenses. 

When the ordinance was discussed in July, there were some questions and concerns from a couple members of council about potential enforcement problems and effectiveness. Council member Charles Flanagan was absent from the meeting.

Skotarczyk drafted a memo to mayor and council prior to the Nov. 4 meeting to address those questions.

“There is some question as to how effective they are and whether they reduce juvenile crime.

He said that enforcement can be challenging due to obtaining the proof necessary to charge someone under the ordinance. Skotarczyk recommended that the ordinance move ahead to second reading and adoption.

“This ordinance certainly would do no harm — certainly could do some good,” he said.

Skotarczyk said that when these types of ordinances were challenged in the past, the main issue was that they were vague.

“I don’t feel that the ordinance we’ve presented to you is vague in any way,” Skotarczyk said.

It also does not prevent parents from reaching out for help with a wayward teen, because actively involved parents are not the target of the ordinance, Skotarczyk said.