Dallas City Council holds first meeting for residents to weigh in on teen curfew

The Dallas City Council heard passionate arguments from people who were for and against re-instating a juvenile curfew.

The first meeting for public input was Wednesday morning at Dallas City Hall. There will be a second meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Woods Rec Center in southwest Dallas.

This is the first time the city of Dallas has been without a teen curfew since 1991.

The curfew expired last month and the council is deciding whether to create a new policy.

Dallas council members want to hear what residents think before they vote on the issue.

Fox 4’s Lori Brown, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, counted about 16 people who spoke out against the juvenile curfew, saying it criminalizes children. While 10 people spoke in favor of it, saying it protects children from being victims of crime.

The old curfew restricted teens under the age of 16 from being out during school hours or late at night. Violators faced up to a $500 fine.

“We got a problem, but it's not a curfew,” said Betty Culbreath, former interim director of the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center.

While critics of the juvenile curfew say it disproportionately impacts minorities, many of its strongest supporters at Wednesday's council meeting were black.

“We need the curfew to give police a tool to help us save our kids,” said Betty Culbreath.

Some of the most positive testimonials came from parents.

“[My son] was running to the streets, and running to drugs,” said Caren Bright, who is in favor of a juvenile curfew.

Bright, who is a single working mother, said her son used to sneak out the window at night.

She was thankful police brought him home safely three times, before he turned around.

“The police officers brought him home to me safely. Talked with us, worked with us, and made it possible to bridge that gap,” Bright said. “Now, my son is at UNT, and making good decisions, but I needed the support of this curfew law.”

Another mom had a different outlook.

“I believe the curfew is a way to criminalize our young black and brown kids. Our communities are targeted more than predominately white communities,” said Julie Vasquez.

Opponents argue the curfew is a school-to-prison pipeline.

“Why can't we find a solution that doesn't involve having our kids interact with the criminal justice system?  Instead of citations, we should ask them if everything is okay,” Vasquez added.

Other critics said there's no data showing a curfew keeps children safer.

“If this is a tool, I would describe it as an unsterilized plier to go into surgery, and it is not the right tool to address our children,” said Maria Islam, who is against a curfew.

The Dallas Police Department has said in a statement that the department is concerned about the disproportionate impact on minorities. Dallas PD is proposing a revised ordinance. It includes a warning for first-time offenders and community service instead of fines after that.

The Dallas Police Association says it supports the curfew as a way to keep children from becoming victims of crime.