Scott Ball / Rivard Report
City Council will soon vote on re-adopting San Antonio's youth curfew ordinance, but with changes that seek to decriminalize violators and instead offer them corrective resources from a new pilot program.
The current curfew went into effect in June 2015 with the intended purpose of minimizing the likelihood that youth would participate in, or become victims of, criminal activity. It prohibits 10- to 16-year olds from being out and unsupervised between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and from being out of school on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The proposed changes, recommended on Tuesday by the City's five-member Public Safety Committee, would make those found violating the curfew no longer subject to being charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
Instead, the City will employ a pilot program, focused in six zip codes across the Westside, Southside, and Eastside in areas with at-risk youth, to address the issues causing the curfew-breaking behaviors.
The goal of the re-engagement program will be to get students and other at-risk youth aged 16 to 24, either back into schools or into employment. Youth may be identified by San Antonio Police Department officers who find them breaking curfew, or through referrals from participating City departments, school districts, and faith-based community nonprofits.
Seven departments in city government came together to formulate the new plan: the Department of Human Services, the Metropolitan Health District, Parks & Recreation, Economic Development, Municipal Court, the San Antonio Public Library, and SAPD. A new re-engagement center would most likely be run by the City's Department of Human Services, said Rebecca Flores, education program administrator for the City.
Council members William "Cruz" Shaw (D2), Greg Brockhouse (D6), Ana Sandoval (D7), John Courage (D9), and Clayton Perry (D10) make up the public safety committee and gave their approval for re-adopting the curfew with the recommendations to decriminalize violations.
However, Perry and Sandoval expressed concern about the lack of input from the local 17 school districts. Only Judson, Alamo Heights, North East, Harlandale, and Southside ISDs contacted SAPD to express their support for re-adoption of the curfew ordinance.
Akeem Brown, chairman of My Brother's Keeper San Antonio, told the Rivard Report after the meeting that the recommendations fit requests the organization had made for the re-adoption of the ordinance, but that he also felt there needed to be more school district involvement.
"School districts have been citing [curfew violators] way more than police officers, and those numbers were not displayed" at the meeting, Brown said.
SAPD presented citation statistics by demographic group collected since the enactment of the ordinance in 2015 that showed more youth of color were given citations than white youth. They showed white youth receiving 44.1 percent of curfew citations, followed by Hispanics receiving 39.6 percent, and blacks receiving 9.4 percent, with 6.9 percent unknown.
Brockhouse, responding to a claim by My Brother's Keeper that citations have an impact on youth of color, commented on the demographics saying that "this isn't a color issue, it's a youth issue."
Speaking after the meeting, Brown said he disagreed with Brockhouse's claim that there was no race issue in the discussion, but believed the councilman made the comment based on incomplete citation figures. It was unclear if the figures provided during Tuesday's meeting were citations given solely by SAPD, or SAPD and some of the 17 school districts.
It was unclear when the full City Council will vote on the curfew measure.