Out Late? City Considers Revised Curfew for Teens

Houston's teen curfew law could get a few tweaks when city council considers a revised ordinance next week. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the changes are aimed at curbing both crimes against and by juveniles.

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This isn't the first time council has considered changing the curfew laws. Last year members discussed moving the curfew from 12 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. Some thought the earlier curfew was too strict and are now prepared to vote on an 11 p.m. curfew for young people 16 and under. Mayor Bill White says the compromise makes sense.

"I think there's a consensus that during school nights for people 16 and under, 11 o'clock is late enough and that we'll reduce the risk to those young people. We'll reduce the risk to the community and we'll give new tools both to law enforcement and to parents."

The current curfew affects young people 17 years old and younger and starts at midnight. Councilman Adrian Garcia says the rules as they are don't let police officers do their jobs.

"To see a young person out there on the street and not have the legal authority to say what are you doing and where are you and where do you live and have to wait until midnight to be able to do that. Our officers want that authority. They've been responsive to the community. They're hearing the complaints and are policing and are getting familiar with the community. They know what the problems are but they need that authority and we're giving it to them."

There are exceptions to the curfew rules for school-related events and for young people who work at night. Police officers also use discretion when enforcing the curfew when it appears young people are out late for legitimate reasons. Houston police executive assistant chief Mike Thaler says studies have shown the two hours between 10 p.m. and midnight are busy ones when it comes to juvenile crime.

"The reason the changes are a good idea is because the hours between 10 and 12 o'clock are another time when juveniles are most at risk. Immediately following school hours and then between 10 and midnight is when our stats show there is a prevalence of juvenile victimization and juvenile crime, or juvenile suspects being involved in crime."

Council will consider the new curfew next Wednesday. The new rules would be in effect Sunday through Thursday nights. Weekend curfews would stay the same.

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