LA plans cybercafe teen curfew

Gang violence and homicides prompt clampdown

Los Angeles is to impose a curfew on kids into cybercafes because the venues have become a popular hangout for truants and the focus of serious youth violence in the city. Cybercafes (or PC baangs) with more than five machines will need a police license must install video cameras for security under regulations put forward in Los Angeles City Council yesterday.

Children under 18 will be banned from cafes on school days between 08.30am and 13.30pm and after 2200pm Cyber cafe customers will be required to provide identification on request.

Council members voted 11-0 in favour of the rules. Twelve votes are needed to pass ordinances so a further vote will be required. But this is seen as simply a formality.

To live and die in LA

China shut down more than 8,600 cybercafes this spring because of fears that the Net could corrupt the minds of youngsters. LA authorities plan to introduce tighter regulations after cybercafes began to feature in homicide investigations.

LA's 30 cybercafes, many of which are in the San Fernando Valley, have become a popular hangout for teenage ne'er do wells who skip school to play PC video games with other truants. In January 2003, City Councilman Dennis Zine called for an investigation into cybercafes after a fight broke out between rival groups who were playing the game 'Counter Strike'. The brawl outside the NetStreet Cafe in Northridge left two people injured. In 2002 a man was followed home from the same cybercafe and killed.

Orange County authorities introduced tougher controls on cybercafes in 2002 after a spate of crimes including the murder of two children.

"I don't want to end up like Orange County where a number of murders and other serious crimes took place," Zine told the LA Daily News. "We wanted to be ahead of the curve - pro-active - and put in some regulations. We learned that there were virtually no regulations on the cybercafe industry."

Councilman Greig Smith said the city wanted to make sure that young people could meet safely around cybercafes, not to shut down the businesses. "Cybercafes are not inherently bad or troublesome, it's the attractive nuisance that they provide to children," he said

Cybercafes have raised no objections about the new regulations, which are less severe than proposals put forward two years ago which would have required owners to post security guards outside their businesses. ®

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