AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council voted to extend a 27-year-old curfew for juveniles until October 1. The move eliminates the current daytime curfew for minors when school is in session.
As for the nightly curfew from 11 p.m. until 6 in the morning, juveniles will now get two warnings before receiving a citation. State law requires city leaders to decide whether to readopt the curfew every three years.
KXAN met with some of the dozens of people who came out to speak against the ordinance, calling it criminalization of young people.
“It should be kept where it is and kept in the past,” 17-year-old Howard Griffin told council members at Thursday’s meeting, saying the ordinance doesn’t belong in Austin’s future.
The saying goes, “Time is money.” But for young people out past a certain time, critics say the ordinance comes with an even greater cost: a criminal record.
“If I was to get pulled over due to a broken taillight or any minor issue, they could pull that up against me and give me a Class C misdemeanor,” Griffin said. “Which could charge me for $500 which I do not have.”
Griffin told KXAN he runs the risk weekly, working late to help support his family. “I have to go home past curfew,” he said. “My mom is single now since my dad passed away and since he’s gone someone has to step up and take that role.”
Griffin’s friend Gabrielle Plummer finds herself in a different role, attending Huston-Tillotson University at 17 years old, but unable to attend events that end late.
“Having the justice system be able to punish me for being responsible in trying to uplift myself, I see that this is just another school to prison pipeline incident that just really targets people of color, I feel,” Plummer said.
It’s a concern several echoed Thursday night, including Council Member Greg Casar.
“This was well-intentioned in the past but it has not brought us the results that we want and we need,” he said. “We can still charge people, regardless of age with criminal charges if they have a criminal offense that they are committing.”
The Austin Police Department maintains the curfew is a useful tool to keep kids in our community safe. APD released a “Juvenile Curfew Report” this month, which revealed youth arrests, as a portion of all arrests, dropped from 12 percent before the ordinance was passed in the late ’80s to 4 percent over the last two years.
A stakeholder group is scheduled to return to city council with recommendations by Sept. 10.