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MPD responds to concerns about teens downtown

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Growing concerns about teens congregating on Broadway this summer have led to renewed efforts by Monett police and merchants to address the situation.

Police Chief Tim Schweder said that over the July 8 weekend, police had three reports of graffiti, made an arrest for possession of a controlled substance and arrested a subject for setting off a firework.

"We've had reports of vandalism and kids drinking," Schweder. "Whenever teens congregate, there may be some bad elements there. The Den youth center is a legitimate place for kids to go and have some fun. However, kids who should be inside are outside. We're going to start cracking down on behavior on Broadway."

Debbie Berger, proprietor of Mocha Jo's and board member at The Den, said changes have been made at the youth center. Parents who let children off to go to The Den will be contacted if their children do not go to the upstairs center at 404 E. Broadway. Children are not allowed to enter The Den without providing a parental contact. Parents are called when underage children leave in the evening.

"It's what goes on beyond The Den that's the problem," Berger said. "The Den is a safe spot. Director Brian Smith stays up there."

Schweder said he has photos of around 25 teens gathered outside. Teens have been reported congregating in the street or on sidewalks around the corner from The Den.

Some of the teens are from out of town, Berger said. She is concerned about their presence and has reports that some Mocha Jo's customers have chosen not to wade through the crowd. The coffee house has removed its exterior seating for the present, though customers enjoyed the option, Berger said.

Police officers are increasing patrols on Broadway, Schweder said, and will be enforcing the city curfew for teens, which is 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The Den has also changed its hours to be open from 5 to 11 p.m. on weekends to give youth time to go home before curfew.

The Den is also considering hiring a security guard, Berger said.

"Don't stop coming downtown," Berger said. "To improve the downtown, we'll have to get a handle on this. We've had a presence outside the last couple weeks, and it has helped. Fight the battle with us. It will take a concerted effort by those who support downtown Monett.

"We just want to stop trouble before it gets started," Schweder said. "We appreciate it if parents make sure their kids are going to The Den that they are in The Den and doing what they are supposed to do. If not, we will be watching."

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Teens aren't supposed to congregate? There is no place in this town for kids to hang out and talk and enjoy being a kid. Instead law enforcement has run them off from every location, and they sure can't cruise; get a grip kids are going to be kids.

-- Posted by Juju2010 on Thu, Jul 21, 2011, at 4:42 PM

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