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Public Safety Commission recommends lights-out for late-night curfew

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The Public Safety Commission unanimously supported a recommendation on Tuesday night to end the late-night curfew currently enforced against Austin’s youngsters.

The proposal, brought forward by Commissioner Daniela Nuñez, drew support from Austin’s interim police chief, Brian Manley, who explained that an ongoing community conversation that began this summer has convinced him to switch course and prepare a similar proposal to City Council.

“That will be the recommendation,” Manley said, adding, “And that we do a better job of data collection over the next year with the understanding that, if we at any point see a spike in juvenile victimization or a spike in juvenile crime, then we want to revisit the issue to make sure that the curfew wouldn’t be an effective tool to help us combat that.”

The push to overturn the late-night curfew comes on the heels of Council’s decision in June to end the daytime curfew restrictions during school hours. Per state law, cities are required to review their curfew laws every three years. When Council kiboshed the daytime curfew, it extended the nighttime version – which bans anyone under 17 from city streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. – through October. Council also formed a working group to continue exploring the relevant issues.

In the meantime, the Austin Police Department has deployed a new three-strikes policy by which officers will only hand out citations on a juvenile’s third late-night violation.

Nuñez explained that her desire to end the curfew is a matter of social equity.

“It hurts youth, specifically kids of color,” she said. “And APD already has tools to try and address situations like this.” She cited APD data that shows that 17 percent of curfew tickets have been handed to black youths, who represent only 8 percent of the city population between the ages of 10 and 17.

In addition to the end of the nighttime curfew, Nuñez’s resolution also recommended the extension of the working group, and a general commitment by the Public Safety Commission to shifting “how the City of Austin treats young people by moving from a punitive approach to a supportive approach.”

The commission ultimately supported the recommendation on an 8-0 vote. Commissioners Sam Holt and Brian Haley were absent.

This story has been corrected. Commissioner Rebecca Gonzales was not absent for the vote as originally reported.

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