In this space each week, we try to zero in on a single politician, lawmaker or governing body using its power to limit individual freedom and choice in some way.
But for this week, there is no singular entity or individual to blame. Instead, we highlight one of the more disturbing trends to emerge this summer — no, not Iggy Azalea songs — the widespread practice of arresting parents, usually moms, for letting their children play outdoors unattended.
How widespread? A complete survey of news stories would be too long for this space, b ut here are a few prime examples:
In mid-July, Deborah Harrell of South Carolina was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct after she confessed to letting her 9-year-old daughter play at a park for an hour.
"The little girl is fine tonight, but some say an area the mother thought was safe could have turned dangerous," intoned Deon Guillory, the reporter for ABC-6 news who first reported the story — slathering on the fear of the unknown as only local news can.
Harrell was fired from her job at McDonald's after her arrest. The bright side of the story is that she'll be able to go to the park with her daughter now, though the whole being-unemployed thing is probably a bit of a bummer.
But that was only the beginning.
Nicole Gainey, of Florida, was arrested on July 29 after letting her 7-year-old son walk to a nearby park by himself. The kid even had a cellphone to call for help, if it was needed.
Gainey told NBC's Today she was "totally dumbfounded" by the incident.
"I honestly don't think I was doing anything wrong. I was letting him go play," she told the news program.
Gainey now faces up to five years in jail for child neglect, according to KTLA.
- In Georgia, police arrested Courtney B. Tabor and charged her with three misdemeanors for getting out of her car to smoke a cigarette and leaving her three kids inside. We can only assume the police would have preferred that she light up inside the car with her kids.
- In New York, Patricia Juarez was arrested after letting her son play in a LEGO store for an hour while she shopped nearby.
- Back in Florida, Ashley Richardson was arrested this week after letting her kids play alone in a park while she went to a local food bank.
- And just Thursday in North Carolina, Josephine Mamie Bombo was arrested for letting her 10-year-old daughter play unattended in a local park. A 10-year old!
Just a few minutes of Internet searching will turn up more examples, and that's only the list of incidents covered by the local news that have gained some level of national attention. There are surely many other parents being put in handcuffs for similar "crimes" that the media misses.
And, yes, parents have to be responsible for their children. It might not be exactly A-plus parenting to let your kid play in a LEGO store for an hour or walk to a park unattended, depending on the child and their age and the neighborhood and a slew of other factors.
But is it a crime? We're skeptical. So this week's award goes to local cops across the country who are cracking down on the scourge of unaccompanied children in public places. Their collective prize is having to put up with the world of helicopter parents they are helping to create.
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