Organization Urging City to Drop Youth Curfew Law

A group called My Brothers Keeper is actively lobbying the San Antonio City Council to not renew the city's three year old youth curfew law, which is set to come up for consideration later this month, News Radio 1200 reports.

My Brothers Keeper is a creation of San Antonians for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE) and it advocates for 'more opportunities for young people of color.'

MBK Chair Akeem Brown says to have the first interaction between a young person and a police officer involve being handed a ticket for a violation or possibly being taken into custody is not a good introduction for a teenager.

"This presents a negative relationship or interaction between law enforcement and young people," Brown said.

The move is part of an effort to end the criminalization of non violent youth behavior, which advocates say leads to a 'school to prison pipeline.' The Texas Legislature in 2015 decriminalized truancy for the same reason.

The San Antonio Youth Curfew was approved in 2015, and fewer than sixty citations were issued for violations of the law in the past year. It prohibits a person under the age of 17 from being on the streets overnight or during school hours, unless the teenager is engaged in several specified activities, which can include work, religious activities, or participating in organized events.

But Brown says the law places young people and police in conflict unnecessarily.

"This young kid as a Class C misdemeanor on his record, and he is also subject to seeing a judge," he said. "Now we have to take him to court."

He says the $500 fine is a hardship for many families, and could lead to more serious financial problems down the road.

Brown says if a young person is breaking the law, that person can be arrested for breaking the law, because committing the sorts of crimes the curfew law is designed to prevent are already against the law.  He says in today's increasingly '24/7 world' there are also more and more reasons to be on the streets at what were previously considered 'inappropriate hours.'

In a City Council Committee hearing last month, many members of Council expressed similar concerns about the curfew.

Brown says rather than using fines and jail, he would support alternative approaches to dealing with the problem of a young person wandering the streets overnight.

"Where you really navigate a solution for young people, and then you have restorative justice programs, which we are asking the school districts and the City of San Antonio to help adopt," he said.

At the City Council Committee hearing, many members expressed concern that the main reason a young person might be walking the streets overnight is out of the young person's control, like trying to get away from violence, drug use, or other dysfunction at home, or perhaps homelessness.

Some suggested finding out why the young person is on the streets at 1AM and deal with that issue, instead of taking the 'easy way,' and simply arresting and fining the young person.

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