Last year, the City Council let the juvenile curfew expire. The city has to renew this every three years, per state law. And the matter heated up this time around because of research that showed black and Latino kids were getting ticketed more than whites. The original plan was to wait a few more months to gauge any adverse consequences of a city without a curfew. After all, police say nothing’s stopping them from approaching residents who appear young and are out late at night. The ordinance didn’t affect that ability. In fact, in a memo to staff in mid-January, Chief Reneé Hall told officers to keep making contact with kids they see out at odd hours.
But the powers that be reversed course. The issue went to committee first, and then there were two public hearings. On Wednesday, just six weeks after the curfew expired, it was reinstated. The version that got the votes was championed by Councilman Adam McGough. West Dallas Councilman Omar Narvaez proposed an alternative that would’ve made these violations civil rather than criminal. Dallas PD does have a process for writing civil citations—parking and red-light camera tickets are examples.
McGough’s version got the support, with opposition from Council members Narvaez, Sandy Greyson, Philip Kingston, and Adam Medrano. The new law does look slightly different than the old one. Here’s a quick rundown of the changes:
• The previous maximum fine was $500. The new maximum fine is $50.
• Under the previous version, nothing in the ordinance required police to ask kids why they were out or issue a verbal warning before writing a citation. Under the new version, officers are required to ask for that information and provide two verbal warnings.
• The new version has language that requires, on the first offense, for the officer to try to contact the child’s parent or guardian and to take them home without issuing a ticket. Police say they’ve been doing this anyway. Now it’s official.
• The previous version included exceptions for kids who were with a parent, running an errand at the direction of a parent (without detour), involved in an emergency, or other similar reasonings. The new version adds a defense for minors attending a “community engagement or recreation activity.”