AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council voted Thursday to end the city’s rule for juvenile curfew. It had been in effect for 27 years.
Those under 17 would previously receive two warnings before getting a citation if they were out and about between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The rule will officially expire Sunday, but the Austin Police Department says since June its officers have only been giving warnings.
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley once supported the curfew, but changed his mind after reviewing its impact.
“Each and every one of those the initial reasons of interacting with those youth was not the curfew itself,” Manley told the City Council Thursday night. “It was either a traffic stop or a 911 call they were part of or the fact that we found them they were engaging in activity that gave us a concern that there might be some criminality involved.”
Manley said since June there were 14 cases where curfew was missed, but none of the teens were causing trouble. That month, the City Council also eliminated the daytime curfew, which was set during the hours school was in session.
A working group has been brainstorming recommendations — alternatives to the curfew that will help teenagers rather than criminalize them. Ideas include better training for officers when it comes to interacting with youth, offering safe rides home at all hours, and coming up with a list of safe places they can go 24 hours a day.
For the last few years, retired Austin police detective Mike Sheffield has been providing at-risk youth positive ways to spend their down time through a leadership program.
Friday, we visited the Blue Santa warehouse where the teenagers spend a good deal of time sorting donations. They recently packed up boxes full of items for Hurricane Harvey victims.
“Idle hands is the devil’s workshop,” said Sheffield, who is now with the Austin Police Office of Community Liaison. “The main thing is finding opportunities for these kids other than being on the street at 11, 12, 1, 2 o’clock in the morning.”
The city council’s next step is putting together a task force made up of teenagers to find out what will work best.
“It’s going to be the voices of our youth that are really going to guide what’s tomorrow for Austin,” said Asst. Chief Troy Gay.Click here to read the full report on Austin’s juvenile curfew ordinance.