Dubuque holds parents responsible - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque holds parents responsible

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- A new city ordinance could fine parents up to $1,000 when their kid breaks the law.

Dubuque City Council members approved the Parental Responsibility Ordinance at their meeting Monday.

Officials say, this is not aimed at first-time offenders. It's targeting parents and guardians who fail to exercise "reasonable control" over their kids.

Lieutenant Scott Baxter with the Dubuque Police Department said most Dubuque parents have nothing to worry about.

"The parents that, when they come down here to pick up their kids after their kids have broken the law clearly don't care, clearly put the blame on us or other people. That's who this law is targeting," he said.

"A lot of it's how they're brought up and inside the home, and I think that's where a lot of our problem originate: lack of parenting, lack of structure, lack of discipline at home, and that's, frankly, somewhat what this law is targeting," Baxter said, "is the parents who have taken a kind of hands-off approach, don't seem actively involved, don't seem to care.

Dubuque is not alone in this ordinance. In November, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down part of Davenport's Parental Responsibility Ordinance, which presumed parents had violated the ordinance if their child broke a law at all.

"We don't expect parents to know 100 percent of the time what their kids are up to, what they're doing and to take full, 100 percent responsibility of their kids' doing," Baxter said, "but we do expect a certain degree of accountability in raising their children, knowing where they're at."

The Council considered imposing a curfew, but officials say that wouldn't solve juvenile crime.

"Most of our juvenile crime is happening before 10 p.m., which would make a curfew somewhat counterproductive, and we thought this might be a better approach," Baxter said.

The ordinance has police send parents a warning letter after the juvenile's first offense.

For the second offense, the city imposes a fine of $250 or allows parents to design and submit a written plan to ensure their kid doesn't break the law again. Parents can also opt to pay for and take a parenting class.

The third offense is $500 or one of the other two options if a parent didn't choose them after the second offense.

The fourth and subsequent offenses bring a fine of $1,000.

"This isn't designed to punish the one-time offender, the one-time person who makes a mistake. It's not intended to punish their parents for a minor slip-up," Baxter said. "There will be a lot of discretion with the city attorney and our officers, who are enforcing the ordinance

City attorney Barry Lindahl said Dubuque has a high burden of proof when it comes to determining whether a parent has failed to exercise reasonable control. It's not just assumed, since that's what the Iowa Supreme Court took issue with in November.

Lindahl said the ordinance will likely go into effect Friday.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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