Austin’s Interim Police Chief, Brian Manley, is reversing his stance on a long-held city policy, the juvenile curfew. Manley, who once supported the curfew, is now saying that it might be time to do away with it.
Acknowledging the position change he said, “It’s very counter to what my initial opinion was of this issue.” After reviewing data and visiting with working groups on recent cases, he thinks it’s time for city council to consider removing the ordinance. As it stands, anyone under the age of 17 that is in public or in a business between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. can be charged with a misdemeanor.
A review of recent curfew cases showed that in many instances where an officer gave warnings or citations to curfew offenders, they had other reasons to stop them anyway – meaning that decriminalizing being out during those hours shouldn’t have an impact on officers’ ability to stop a suspected offender.
After the chief spoke with the Public Safety Commission, they agreed and voted to recommend the policy change to council as well.
At a hearing on the ordinance a few months ago, 17-year-old Howard Griffin spoke, saying, “My mom is single now because my dad passed away and since he’s gone someone has to step up and take that role.” The point of his testimony was that Griffin is now forced to work and regularly runs the risk of being charged with a misdemeanor because he is heading home past the curfew.
State law requires juvenile curfews to be reviewed every three years or face automatic expiration. As this review approaches, Chief Manley is using it as an opportunity to recommend that council forgo renewing it.
If the change is implemented, and future reviews find no increase in youth crime because of its repeal, other Texas cities may follow Austin’s lead as Houston, Dallas, El Paso, and Fort Worth all have similar ordinances on the books.