DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) - For almost a decade, a Dubuque ordinance has been holding parents accountable for crimes their child committed.
The parental responsibility ordinance was passed in 2011. Under the ordinance parents could face fines and other intervention methods if their child has had too many run-ins with police.
The ordinance is only used if a child has committed multiple minor crimes, such as criminal mischief, vandalism or petty theft, and police suspect their parents are not doing enough to hold their child accountable.
Maureen Quann, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Dubuque said the goal of the ordinance is to encourage parents to be more proactive when addressing their child's problems.
"When children are apprehended or detained because of these minor crimes, what's the response from these parents," said Quann. "Are we able to find them? Are they coming down to the police station and responding? Have they been involved at all of the points prior to this?"
Police first warn these families with a letter and conduct an evaluation. If the parent does not pass, they have the options to take a parenting class or pay a fine.
"And I think you want to hopefully intervene with family involvement with this situation before anything escalates to a more dangerous point," said Quann.
The ordinance previously solely required parents to pay a fine if they did not pass the evaluation. The fine for a first violation is $250, the fine for a second violation is $500. A third violation would cost $1,000 and could end in jail time.
Dubuque City Councilman, Brett Shaw, was initially concerned this ordinance was too harsh.
“What concerns me about this ordinance is the thought of people that are trying very hard," said Shaw. "And the best parenting doesn’t necessarily yield the best-acting child."
Since the ordinance was passed, there have been 124 warning letters sent to families. Of those, only 24 of them received citations.
In 2019, the city recorded a staggering 10 municipal infractions issued. Quann said the number was due in part because of an increase in group-related incidents over the summer.