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Government Council Report: Curfew for minors extended

Council Report: Curfew for minors extended

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Minors in Fort Worth will have a curfew for at least three more years.

Following a public hearing in which many speakers expressed their opposition, the Fort Worth City Council voted Tuesday to extend continuation of the ordinance for an additional three years.

This was the second of two public hearings, the first being on Dec. 17.

“Most people I spoke with did not know Fort Worth has a curfew,” said resident Lizzy Maldonado, noting that youngsters can get caught breaking the law without even knowing there is a law.

The curfew was first established in 1994 and was last renewed in 2017. Curfew hours are between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and from 12:01-6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The ordinance also makes it an offense for a parent, guardian or the agent of a for-profit business to knowingly allow a juvenile to violate the curfew.

Maldonado, like several, said the curfew is disproportionately applied to black and brown youths. She suggested repealing the curfew and comparing data from the next three years without it.

“Take a step toward repairing the distrust in our community,” she said. “After 25 years we know better. Let’s do better.”

Fellow citizen Tabitha Williams said of the curfew, “It relies on an officer’s discretion as to who looks innocent or not.” She also suggested keeping community centers open later as an option to keeping minors off the street.

Williams brought before the council statistics she gathered that indicated juvenile victimization occurred more during curfew hours than non-curfew times. She followed with, “Don’t fine young people $500 for existing in public at night. At the very least lower the fine.”

Captain James Stockton of the Fort Worth Police Department responded by saying that it makes sense that many crimes occur late at night. He also listed the exemptions to the curfew that include:

*Being out with a parent or guardian.

*Running an errand for a parent or guardian.

*Being in a motor vehicle on the interstate.

*Being on the sidewalk outside their own residence or their neighbor’s.

*Emergency situations.

*Work purposes.

*An official function, such as a school activity.

*First Amendment freedoms, such as religious activity.

*Minor status has been surrendered.

*Minor is married.

“We don’t seek to criminalize them, but to use this as a tool to look out for their welfare,” Stockton said.

Williams asked for the vote to be tabled until more discussion about the curfew could take place. The council opted to vote, approving the extension by a 9-0 vote.

“The FWPD has demonstrated a positive benefit to and a low cost of enforcement of the city curfew for minors,” District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd said. “I appreciate our Police Department’s attention to safety and preventative policing.”

District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens expressed her favor for continuing the curfew, citing several shootings in her district, including a pair Sunday night, one resulting in the death of a victim. She also cited the recent shooting of two people, one a police officer, by a 15-year-old at a basketball game in Dallas this past weekend.

“I will vote to continue the teen curfew, but remain open to hear any objections or suggestions offered by parents or guardians,” Bivens said. “The father of an Arlington teen shot and killed in Fort Worth told news media his daughter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Time is what this curfew is all about.

“I will be asking police how we engage with the public on monitoring the progress or needed improvements throughout the three-year duration of each curfew extension. I spoke with Mark Carter, Founder of Stop the Violence, who told me of the sadness students are expressing after the shooting of a teen that happened near Stalcup. We really do need to Stop the Violence, but take all measures to reach the parents, guardians and teens to communicate what enforcement of the curfew looks like.”

In 1995, the Texas Legislature enacted legislation to require cities to review their curfew ordinances at least every three years, complete with public hearings. If no such action is taken, the curfew ordinance expires.

Fort Worth’s current ordinance was set to expire Jan. 24.

“You don’t hear gunfire every night, and when you live in Stop Six….” Bivens added.

Under city code, the report from the city manager’s office addresses the practicality of

enforcing the curfew, notes any enforcement problems encountered by the police department or marshal’s office, indicates the impact of the curfew on crime statistics, provides information on the number of successful prosecutions of curfew violations, and estimates the city’s net cost of enforcing the curfew.

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