Sulphur Springs City Council Eyeing Renewal Of Curfew For Unaccompanied Minors

Sulphur Springs City Council, on first reading, approved renewal of Ordinance No. 2762, establishing a curfew for unaccompanied minors.

Light pole and banner on Celebration Plaza in downtown Sulphur Springs.

Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jason Ricketson, during the regular City Council meeting on March 1, 2022, said the ordinance gives officers an option that serves as a safety measure, offering officers a legal option in dealing with youth who are out late at night. They can issue citations to unaccompanied minors, who do not meet requirements for exceptions and are caught out curing hours the curfew is in effect.

Before the ordinance was passed, officers who contacted youth out late without supervision only had the option to ask them to leave and go home, but legally no other options unless the minors commit a criminal offense. The kids knew that and would even rebuff officers requests, citing their inability to do anything further. Most frequently reported to be out after business hours, knocking over things, potentially fighting, causing a disturbance in December 2019 were middle school aged youth, according to the pair of downtown business representatives who asked the City Council for help a little over 2 years ago.

The ordinance allows there to be a penalty, a citation or warning, for unaccompanied minors out late at night by themselves. It also allows the officer to take the youth home if caught out in violation of curfew, according to City Manager Marc Maxwell. Ricketson noted recently, officers have noted what appear to be more youth sneaking out of their homes at night, and at younger ages.

Downtown looking through the Veterans Memorial at night

If a warning or citation is issued, there will be a record of it. So if an unaccompanied minor is contacted by police for being out walking after midnight or 2 a.m., a record check check would show if the same youth had been issued a curfew violation warning by a different officer a few months before. The officer at that time could take the unaccompanied minor home and issue a citation for violating curfew, or determine if other action is needed. If alleged criminal behavior was involved, police should take the proper legal action for that offense, according to the police chief.

While officers have not issued a citation yet, they have given 40 warnings for youth being out after curfew since the ordinance was became effective on May 1, 2020.

The curfew ordinance, when enacted had a “sunset clause,” meaning a definite expiration date of April 30, 2022. Ricketson asked the City Council to renew the curfew for three years this time, the longest allowable.

Place 1 City Councilman Jay Julian asked if there is other action that police could take in absence of the ordinance for miscreant behavior by minors, if the absence of the ordinance would pose a higher threat to public safety. Ricketson said it would hold the youth accountable for their actions, and allow them to take them home.

Downtown looking out across Oak Avenue from Celebration Plaza

Julian pointed out that before the holidays the glass restrooms downtown were vandalized, but not by youth. A 28-year-old man caused that damage. He asked if that’s the case, by that logic, shouldn’t the curfew be extended to include young adults too. Ricketson pointed out that the man shortly after damaging the see-through loos was arrested, just as a youth would be taken into custody per the law regarding alleged juvenile offenders.

The city council approved on first reading an extension of Ordinance No. 2762 establishing a curfew for unaccompanied minors, with Julian voting against renewal of the curfew.

The ordinance will be heard again for second reading at the April City Council meeting, and if approved by a majority of the elected board would once again become effective. A public hearing will be conducted prior to the April City Council vote on the ordinance, to allow community members to voice comments regarding renewal of the curfew.

The ordinance can be viewed on the city website, https://www.sulphurspringstx.org/, or by clicking here.

Author: Faith Huffman

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