Dallas leaders consider replacing teen curfew ordinance

Dallas city leaders on Monday discussed what, if anything, will replace a juvenile curfew ordinance that expires this week.

The current curfew has been in place since 1991. It prohibits children under the age of 16 from going outside without an adult after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On the weekends they cannot be out past midnight.

Critics say it unfairly targets minorities and underprivileged kids. But the Dallas Police Association defends the ordinance, saying it curbs crime and keeps kids safe.

“I think the last thing we need is young juveniles running the streets at 3 a.m.,” said DPA President Mike Mata.

The juvenile curfew was put in place in 1991 when teen crime was on the rise in Dallas.

Longtime community activist Edna Pemberton helped put it together and she supports having a new and improved ordinance.

“We don't want to lose another young person, that's our goal,” she told the committee.

Under the soon-to-expire curfew, police officers can charge juveniles with a Class C misdemeanor, which includes a fine.

But several councilmembers say the curfew is unfair to minorities and Dallas police officials said a new curfew would need to be revised and updated from its original version.

“We just want to make sure that we are approaching this a little differently,” said DPD Chief Renee Hall while speaking to the City’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday.

If council votes on a new curfew -- after input from the community -- DPD wants to decriminalize violators. It would offer them written warnings and access to community services.

“We can have a better ordinance where we can not only engage youth out during the hours of the curfew, but provide them some options and get them help rather than write them a citation with a fine,” said DPD Assistant Chief David Pughes.

Two public hearings are expected to be held in February. Members of the community can give the board their option on a possible new curfew. The city council could also opt to not put anything new in place, as well.

“With these town hall meetings were going to find out what's really going on and how can we help,” said councilman Tennell Atkins.