Will Dallas’ Curfew On Minors Make a Comeback?

Amisha Khetani, Head of News and Entertainment

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The Dallas City Council decided Wednesday to expedite the process to restore a longstanding juvenile curfew ordinance that expired last week.

The ordinance — which allows police to stop youths under 17 primarily during late-night and school hours — has drawn opposition from civil rights activists who believe it unfairly targets minority youths.

Council members voted to schedule two public hearings next month on the curfew. State law requires community hearings before the council can reinstate the curfew.

But City Manager T.C. Broadnax said officials won’t have time to come up with an alternative curfew plan before the meetings on Feb. 6 and 13.

Philip Kingston, the council’s most prominent opponent of the ordinance, unsuccessfully pushed to delay the meetings until May so the coalition of activists could first meet with police officials and discuss alternatives to the ordinance.

Dallas will let juvenile curfew ordinance expire amid growing pressure, fears of minority targeting

Kingston said the council was “riding off in all directions with no plan whatsoever.”

Council member Tennell Atkins, who represents southeastern Dallas, said his constituents want the curfew back.

Atkins said the council “can’t just sit here” without a curfew until May. He added later that council “can still change” its approach to enforcement, but the ordinance would be “a tool in the toolbox to make sure our kids are safe.”

Civil rights groups have said that they don’t believe the ordinance has any tangible public safety benefits and that Latino youths unfairly received a majority of citations issued. Adam Medrano and Omar Narvaez, Kingston’s allies and the council’s only two Latino members, also wanted more time to schedule the hearings.

“What I don’t understand is the need for this rush,” Narvaez said. “We are pushing this through at a lightning speed without getting all the information, without having our city manager ready to talk to us — as well as our chief.”

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata has previously said police and residents can work together to figure out a better way forward on a curfew ordinance. But he said the curfew’s expiration hamstrings officers.

Community leaders worked with city officials to create the ordinance in 1991 in response to a spate of youth violence. But back then, crime rates were generally higher nationwide.

Hilda Ramirez Duarte, president of LULAC’s Dallas chapter, said she is against the old curfew returning — even temporarily as some council members suggested. She said the city ought to evaluate whether juvenile crime and victimization are affected without the curfew.

The council scheduled two meetings next month on the ordinance:
Feb. 6 during a council meeting, time TBD : Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St.
Feb. 13 at an off-site council meeting, 6 p.m.: Park in the Woods Recreation Center, 6801 Mountain Creek Pkwy.