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Council imposes daytime youth curfew

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

To address the growing concern about crimes committed by Lockhart youth during “school hours,” the Lockhart City Council voted with little fanfare on Tuesday to impose a daytime curfew on all local youth under the age of 18.

The daytime curfew will stand as a companion piece to the existing cur

few, which prohibits minors age 16 and under from being in public places, except in exceptional circumstances, between the hours of 11 p.m. – 6 a.m.

“One of our concerns is the fact that there is really no means for an officer to approach a juvenile during the daytime hours and ask why they aren’t in school,” said Juvenile Probation Director Jay Monkerud, who stood with Police Chief Mike Lummus and Associate Municipal Judge Bonnie Townsend in asking for the curfew extension. “The police have, on occasion picked the kids up and taken them back to school, but legally, we’re not sure they have the right to do that.”

Due to changes made recently by the Texas Legislature, truancy itself is no longer considered a crime, and a student may have as many as 10 unexcused absences before the school district must take action.

“More than 75 percent of our daytime burglaries are committed by kids,” Lummus said. “In the research we’ve done, having a daytime curfew will help dramatically reduce those numbers.”

Under the approved ordinance, which will make it a Class C Misdemeanor for a juvenile to violate the daytime curfew between 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., a fine of up to $500 could be imposed not only on the youth, but on the parents or guardians.

“Where there is chronic violation, that’s bad for the health and safety of the child,” said City Attorney Peter Gruning. “And in those cases, yes, we can bring the parent in and make them responsible, as well.”

However, he noted, in most cases parents aren’t aware that their children are skipping school, and it usually only takes one offense for the parents to remedy the situation. In the case of repeat offenders, fines can be increased incrementally in an effort to curb the behavior.

According to Townsend, the current fine for a violation of the nighttime curfew is $100, with an additional $71 in court costs. In many cases, the parents are required to pay the fine, and the juveniles are referred to the Juvenile Probation System for community service. In most cases, she said, those cases are given a deferred disposition, and are often dismissed after the completion of the fine and the community service.

City Ordinance violations are not submitted to DPS, and will not become part of a criminal record, she noted. However, if the curfew violation leads to other charges, as it does in some cases, the situation could be different.

“Sometimes, when we get a curfew violation, that leads to a possession charge or some other criminal violation,” she said. “No one will ever go to jail over a Class C Misdemeanor, it’s something else that causes the arrest.”

She noted in the last year, the municipal court has seen a 17 percent increase in juvenile crimes, particularly occurring during the daytime.

“Right now, the police don’t have any real authority to approach a juvenile if they see them out and about during the school day,” she said. “This ordinance will give them that authority.”

Exceptions to the curfew include situations where the child is given parental permission to be in a public place, or the case of school holidays. For the purposes of the ordinance, parents are referred to as “school officials,” in the case of children who attend homeschool.

The daytime curfew will become effective on April 15, 2016.

 

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