Dallas' youth curfew is going back into effect Monday following a lengthy back-and-forth at City Hall about balancing kids' and neighborhoods' safety — perceived or otherwise — with equitable policing.
Fines for curfew violations will be lowered from $500 to $50 and the city will give Dallas parks $500,000 for youth services. Otherwise, the curfew remains largely as it was before it expired earlier this year. Breaking it remains a criminal offense, and it remains in effect for kids younger than 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays and midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends.
Council members in support of the curfew — and the modest alterations proposed by northeast Dallas representative Adam McGough — said that Dallas police want the ordinance to remain in effect so they have a reason to talk to teens who look like they might be in or about to cause trouble. Dallas residents want it, they said, to keep neighborhoods safe.
"Everybody I've talked to in my part of town ... they're all completely in lock step that they [want to keep the curfew]," Rickey Callahan said.
Carolyn Arnold praised the small changes to the ordinance.
"The whole notion for this curfew is that we do care about our youth," Arnold said. "We have a chance now to start anew."
McGough's curfew plan passed 10-5 over objections from council members who supported a plan from Omar Narvaez that would've made breaking curfew a civil, rather than criminal infraction. Kids out too late don't need to be charged with a crime, he argued.
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"This entire discussion when we first started it was about decriminalizing the youth and the teen curfew," Narvaez said. "I think I found a way to decriminalize with the civil citation. Our officers are saying they need this to do their jobs, and I've listened, I've heard ... I want to come up with the best possible ordinance."
After the council voted down Narvaez, it voted down an amendment to McGough's plan by Philip Kingston that would've stopped cops from handcuffing kids who miss curfew, while maintaining criminal penalties. Kingston said that reinstating the curfew, which statistics show is predominantly enforced in areas with high percentages of nonwhite residents, can only lead to negative consequences for the city.
"One of two things is going to happen: Beat cops are either going to continue to write citations — if citations are written, they will continue to disparately affect minorities — or if they don't, then we're going to have a worse problem," Kingston said, "[because] we're going to have an unknown number of contacts [between police and teenagers]."