Compromise Floated in City's Youth Curfew Law

A compromise is being floated at City Hall in the debate over whether to continue the city's three year old youth curfew law, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Members of the City Council Public Safety Committee are suggesting dropping criminal penalties for young people who are on the streets during school hours or overnight, and adding penalties for parents. The Committee also suggested that the curfew be reworded to assure that interventions by police and social workers be the outcome of any young person who is stopped for violating the curfew.

The group 'My Brother's Keeper' told City Council that the curfew law as it is currently written introduces young people into the criminal justice system, and eases their path into undesirable behavior.

The group pointed out that state laws which made truancy a crime were revoked in 2015.

"The Legislature acknowledged the counterproductive consequences of criminalizing young people. "But north side Councilman John Courage, who is a former school teachers, says the city needs to have some type of law on the books that ensures that children who are wandering the streets at inappropriate times can be dealt with.

"So we owe it to those children for their safety and the safety of the community, I believe, to continue this curfew," he said.

Many members of Council said without a law on the books, police would be unable to stop children who are wandering the streets after midnight, which many said indicates problems, ranging from abuse to child sex trafficking.

"The curfew is a way for them to at least engage in a conversation with the young adult who is out, so that we can determine, is this child being human trafficked, so we can potentially pull the child out and get support."

The compromise also involves establishing a 're-engagement center' which will allow resources to be brought into the life of the child to deter future truancy and curfew violations.  

Council members said if a child is committing crimes while out on the streets at 2AM, which is the main concern of people who support a tough curfew law, there are already laws on the books to punish that behavior.

"I don't think there should ever be a situation where a child should be written a ticket, and assessed a fine that could go all the way up to $500," Municipal Court Chief Judge John Bull said. "I think that is ridiculous."

The revised curfew law was referred to the full City Council for consideration in the coming month.

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