Texas lawmaker files bill to repeal juvenile curfew ordinances

Local agency says curfew used to keep minors safe

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A Texas lawmaker is looking to ban cities from imposing juvenile curfew ordinances.

House Bill 1332, which was filed by a Travis County representative, seeks to repeal the curfew ability from law enforcement agencies.

Juvenile curfews have been a controversial topic in cities, as some believe they target and criminalize minorities.

Converse police Chief Fidel Villegas said curfews are used in his city to help keep youth out of harm’s way and away from violent crimes.

“If you have a 13-year-old daughter and you have her hanging out with an 18-, 19-year-old, it usually hits close to home, and [parents] realize that were not just out there trying to stop certain people,” he said.

Villegas said the ordinance gives officers probable cause to address a young person in the middle of the night. At times, it has also helped them locate missing youth or runaways.

“When we’ve stopped some of these kids and written citations, you’d think their parents are upset, and sometimes they are, but they are more upset that their child is up till 1, 2 in the morning,” Villegas said.

Since 2017, Villegas reports, there have been 22 curfew violations and one warning recorded. Five of those were African-American youths, seven were Caucasian and 11 were Hispanic. He said it’s proportionate with the demographic of the city.

Beverly Squyres, a parent to teen and pre-teen children, said families need to be responsible.

“There’s no need for children to be out doing things unattended, roaming the streets. That’s not necessary,” she said.

In Converse, spring break and summer are peak times for curfew violations.

In 2018, the city of San Antonio changed the way it handled its curfew violations, choosing instead of giving citations to offenders to redirect them to a Juvenile Case Management Department in municipal court.

The city of San Antonio is also funding programs to help address the root cause of youth being out of school or out late at night.  In February 2019, it reopened the Frank Garrett Multi Service Center to offer community programs. Among those, is the NXT Level Youth Opportunity Center, which is aimed at youth 16 to 24 years old in need of help with education, work or social programs.

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